Sharing on social media gets a lot of negative attention. But the vast majority of young people who have shared something they felt was difficult online experience support, research shows.

Study: One in three young people open up about difficult experiences online

Sharing on social media gets a lot of negative attention. But most young people who have shared something they felt was difficult experience support.

In a study by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), researchers have examined young people's experiences of sharing something they themselves perceived as difficult in social media. 31 per cent of respondents aged 17 to 21 had shared something with friends and family, while 7.7 per cent had shared something publicly.

The teens who opened up about difficult experiences largely found that it became easier to talk about and that they received support afterwards. As many as 78 per cent of those who shared something with their closest friends felt supported afterwards, while the proportion was 66 per cent among those who shared something publicly.

“The findings show that social media, in addition to many of the negative things you may hear, can also be a platform for seeking out and receiving support,” lead author Bjarte Kysnes says in a press release from the NIPH (link in Norwegian).

Worse mental health

The researchers found that the adolescents who shared, usually responded that they had worse mental health than those who had not shared anything difficult.

Kysnes emphasises that the findings should not be interpreted as advice to young people about sharing difficult things on social media. But they show something that might be good to know for parents, if they wonder what adolescents are doing on their mobile phones: Social media is used to share even difficult things, usually with one or a few friends through private messages.

“Social media can provide opportunities to share difficult feelings and experiences,” Kysnes says.

Support through social media can potentially have positive effects for mental health and well-being.

Girls share more

The study does not consider the severity of the difficulties that the teens shared. It is also not known how often or frequently they have shared something.

Girls shared something difficult to a greater extent than boys. 9 and 38 per cent of girls shared something publicly or with friends, respectively, while the corresponding proportions among boys were 6.1 and 24 per cent.

The study is based on a questionnaire survey among 2,000 students at upper secondary schools in Bergen in 2020: "Life in social media". The NIPH, Bergen Municipality and Vestland County Municipality collaborated on the survey.


Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.

Read the Norwegian version of this article on


Kysnes et al. The association between sharing something difficult on social media and mental well-being among adolescents. Results from the "LifeOnSoMe"-study, Frontiers in Psychology, 2022. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1026973

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