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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 11-17

The effect of social media addiction on burnout among health-care students and professionals in Saudi Arabia

1 Department of Environmental Health, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Preventive Dentistry, College of Dentistry, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
3 Department of Oral Basic and Clinical Sciences, College of Dentistry, Taibah University, Al Madinah Al Munawara, Saudi Arabia
4 Health Promotion and Health Education, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
5 Public Health Department, College of Medicine, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
6 Department of Dental Public Health, Faculty of Dentistry, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
7 Department of Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy, Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
8 Occupation Health, College of Public Health and Health Informatics, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Date of Submission21-Jul-2022
Date of Acceptance15-Nov-2022
Date of Web Publication17-Mar-2023

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Amal Mohammad Badawoud
Department of Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy, Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijam.ijam_72_22

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Introduction: The rapid growth of information technology and the widespread use of smartphones has created the perfect environment for social media addiction, a condition that affects all members of society, including health-care students and professionals. Current evidence suggests that the direct and indirect effects of social media addiction on human health could include, among other things, burnout. This study aimed to investigate the possible relationship between social media addiction and burnout among health-care students and professionals in Saudi Arabia.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used with an online questionnaire distributed to health-care students and professionals via social media platforms. A convenience sampling method was used to collect the data. The questionnaire consisted of three sections measuring demographic variables, social media addiction, and burnout.
Results: The 789 participants who completed the questionnaire had a mean age of 25.77 years (± 8.26) and came from 22 cities in Saudi Arabia. Students had significantly higher scores for social media addiction than interns/residents (P = 0.018) or specialists/consultants (P < 0.001). Participants were found to experience different levels of burnout, reporting no/mild burnout (34.98%), moderate burnout (35.49%), high levels of burnout (23.83%), and severe burnout (5.7%). A significant direct relationship between social media addiction and burnout was found (F [1,787] = 91.877, P < 0.001, R2 = 0.105).
Conclusion: The findings provide insight into the prevalence of social media addiction and burnout among health-care students and professionals and the possible association between two variables. There is a need for further research comparing the correlation between social media addiction and burnout in different groups (i.e., students, interns/residents, and specialists/consultants), as well as identifying factors that affect social media addiction and burnout among these groups.
The following core competencies are addressed in this article: Medical knowledge, Interpersonal and communication skills, and Professionalism.

Keywords: Burnout, health-care professionals, health-care students, social media addiction

How to cite this article:
Badri HM, Aboalshamat KT, Abdouh IM, Quronfulah BS, Mahmoud MA, Rajeh MT, Badawoud AM, Alzhrani AM. The effect of social media addiction on burnout among health-care students and professionals in Saudi Arabia. Int J Acad Med 2023;9:11-7

How to cite this URL:
Badri HM, Aboalshamat KT, Abdouh IM, Quronfulah BS, Mahmoud MA, Rajeh MT, Badawoud AM, Alzhrani AM. The effect of social media addiction on burnout among health-care students and professionals in Saudi Arabia. Int J Acad Med [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 10];9:11-7. Available from: https://www.ijam-web.org/text.asp?2023/9/1/11/371892

  Introduction Top

The concept of “burnout” has been introduced as early as 1969 in the scientific literature. However, the term was first used properly in an academic manner by Freudenberge et al. where he described how hospital volunteers' enthusiasm, motivation, and commitment decreased overtime along with the onset of symptoms of psychological and physical disorders.[1] Nowadays, most researchers use a broader definition provided by Masalach et al. where job burnout is considered to be a long-term response to continuous emotional and interpersonal stress at work that entails feelings such as exhaustion, cynicism, and the sense of inefficacy.[2] The phenomenon of burnout is not limited to workers only but can also be found among students. Academic burnout influences learning and the students' health and well-being.[3] The effects of burnout on students include increased absenteeism, increased dropouts, decreased motivation to complete required academic tasks, and decreased academic achievement in general.[3],[4]

Burnout is affected by a variety of factors. Using social media is very important factor and it is sometimes neglected.[1] Humans, by nature, feel the need to belong and relate; interpersonal communication is the key to do so.[5],[6],[7] Recently, the exponential growth and evolution in information technology, in general, and social media platforms, in particular, led to a significant change in how interpersonal communications are performed between people.[6],[8],[9],[10] The availability and low cost of smartphones, along with the ease of access to the Internet and social media are contributing factors for social media addiction.[5],[6],[7] Social media addiction is its irrational and excessive use to the extent that it negatively impacts numerous aspects of life.[6],[11] Previous studies have reported that symptoms of social media addiction can be manifested in mood, cognition, physical and emotional reactions, and interpersonal and psychological problems.[6],[12],[13],[14],[15]

Previous studies have reported that burnout is affected by social media addiction.[8],[16] Sriwilai and Charoensukmongkol[17] reported that social media addiction was associated with decreased use of problem-oriented work patterns and increased use of emotionally oriented work patterns, thus triggering emotions related to burnout depletion.[17] Junco[18] reported that social media addiction not only causes burnout but also promotes it by decreasing daily face-to-face interactions.[18]

Given the importance of burnout and its presumed association with social media addiction, along with the lack of research on the topic in Saudi Arabia, this study aimed to investigate the aforementioned relationship in health-care students and professionals.

  Materials and Methods Top

A cross-sectional study design was used. The data were collected from health-care students, interns/residents, and specialists/consultants who were working in public health, dentistry, pharmacy, medicine, nursing, and applied medical sciences. A convenience sampling method from clinics, governmental and private hospitals, and universities was used to collect the data. There were two eligibility criteria: (i) working or studying in Saudi Arabia in the fields of public health, dentistry, pharmacy, medicine, nursing, or applied medical sciences and (ii) providing signed agreement on the study consent form. The social media platforms WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat, and others were used in addition to personal invitations to collect data from the participants. Data collection lasted for 2 months, from April to June 2022. No incentive was used in this study because participation was anonymous and voluntary. No one can access the data collected for this study except with the approval of the research team. The study is part of a research project aimed at assessing the psychological health and lifestyle habits of health-care students and professionals in Saudi Arabia. Most of the articles by our team follow similar steps. The Helsinki Declaration was followed in this study.

The data were collected using an online self-reported questionnaire composed of 22 questions in three sections designed to measure demographic variables, social media addiction, and burnout. Section 1 asked about (i) demographics (city, age, gender, qualification, specialty, region, and nationality) and (ii) simple yes/no questions about eating healthy food, having chronic disease, and walking regularly. Section 2 assessed social media addiction via the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale (BSMAS).[19] BSMAS is composed of six items that are answered on a 5-point Likert scale from “very rarely” (1) to “very often” (5). The answers are calculated into BSMAS total points, which range from 5 to 30 (highest level of addiction). BSMAS is a validated questionnaire with accepted psychometric properties, as demonstrated by a Cronbach's alpha of 0.88.[19] Section 3 investigated burnout via the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI).[20] The part of the CBI that was used consisted of six items answered on a 5-point Likert scale, from 0 (never/almost never) to 25 (seldom), 50 (sometimes), 75 (often), and 100 (always). Each participant's average total score was calculated by adding up all answers and dividing the total by six. This score was then categorized as no/low burnout (<50), moderate burnout (50–74), high levels of burnout (75–99), and severe burnout (100).[21] CBI has a high Cronbach's alpha of 0.87.[20] This questionnaire took approximately 10 min to complete. Before the study, the authors translated the BSMAS and CBI into Arabic, and the Arabic version was tested by participants in a pilot study. The pilot was conducted to validate the questionnaire in terms of organization, grammar, understanding, syntax, and language.

Frequencies, percentages, mean, and standard deviation (± SD) were used for the descriptive statistics. The inferential tests implemented in this study were t-test, ANOVA, linear regression, Mann–Whitney test, and Kruskal–Wallis test, and P = 0.05 or less was considered statistically significant. The two software applications used for data cleaning, coding, and analysis were SPSS version 27 (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA) and Microsoft Excel (Microsoft, Redmond, WA).

  Results Top

The total of 789 participants (mean = 25.77 years, SD = 8.26) who completed the questionnaire came from 22 cities in Saudi Arabia: Jeddah, Najran, Dahran, Riyadh, Baljurashi, Kharj, Madinah, Khamis Mushait, Baha, Taif, Buraidah, Qassim, Abha, Dammam, Jazan, Skaka, Yanbu, Makkah, Umluj, Tabuk, Khobar, and Qatif. Participants' answers to questions about consumption of healthy foods, walking regularly, having chronic disease, gender, nationality, region, specialty, and qualifications are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Participant demographic data (n=789)

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For the BSMAS, the participants had a mean score of 17.86 (± 4.84) points out of a possible 36 points. The comparisons of the BSMAS demographic data are shown in [Table 2].
Table 2: Demographic variables in relation to the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale and burnout

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When burnout was calculated, the participants had a mean average score of 57.20 (± 25.11). According to the classification mentioned in the methods section, there were 276 (34.98%) respondents with no or mild burnout, 280 (35.49%) with moderate burnout, 188 (23.83%) with high levels of burnout, and 45 (5.7%) with severe burnout. The levels of burnout were found to be statistically different against gender, nationality, eating healthy food, walking regularly, and having chronic diseases, as displayed in [Table 2].

Using simple linear regression, there was a significant direct relationship found between BSMAS score and burnout score (F (1,787) = 91.877, P < 0.001, R2 = 0.105). The regression coefficient (B = 1.678, 95% confidence interval [20.87–33.59]) indicated that an increase of one unit of the BSMAS is associated with an increase of 1.678 points in burnout. This is illustrated in [Figure 1].
Figure 1: The relationship between BSMAS score and burnout CBI score. BSMAS = Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale, CBI = Copenhagen Burnout Inventory

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  Discussion Top

This study explored the relationship between social media addiction and burnout among students and practitioners in various health fields in Saudi Arabia

The results showed that social media addiction was prevalent in the study sample generally and among students, in particular. This is consistent with what has been previously reported. Previous studies have reported the presence of severe Internet addiction, including the use of social media, among medical[22] and dental students.[23] In addition, Lou et al.[24] found that social media addiction was at relatively high levels among medical care professionals. Moreover, White et al.[25] reported widespread social media use among students specializing in health fields.

The results also show that different levels of burnout are present among health-care students and professionals. Previous reports support these findings. High burnout rates have been reported previously among health-care students,[26],[27],[28] residents,[28] nurses,[29] and physicians.[28],[30]

More importantly, the results show a significant positive relationship between social media addiction and burnout. The number of studies regarding the association between social media addiction and burnout among health-care students and professionals is limited. To the best of our knowledge, only a few studies have focused on the issue. Avci et al.[31] investigated Internet addiction, including the use of social media, and burnout syndrome among physicians, nurses, and other employees working at a university hospital. They found that Internet addiction was positively correlated with emotional exhaustion and desensitization, which are subdimensions of burnout.[31] Lou et al.[24] investigated the status and influencing factors of social media addiction among Chinese medical care professionals (physicians and nurses) from two randomly selected hospitals. The authors reported finding a positive correlation between burnout and social media addiction.[24] Toth et al.[32] investigated the prevalence and risk factors of Internet addiction and its possible association with burnout among health-care workers in a single hospital. The authors reported that no significant association between burnout and Internet addiction, even when taking into account the subdimensions of burnout.[32]

Based on our findings and evidence from previously published studies, it is thought that the alarming rates of social media addiction and burnout among health-care students and professionals could be attributed to the nature of these students'/professionals' (i) specialty requirements in their field and the levels of achievement they are expected to reach and (ii) long stressful working hours. Both factors hinder students'/professionals' ability to entertain themselves, and using social media is considered to be one of the most convenient forms of entertainment.

There are many possible negative effects of social media addiction and burnout on health-care students and professionals. A plethora of studies have shown that excessive use of social media is linked to a variety of symptoms including stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, emotional loneliness, and performance problems.[33],[34],[35],[36],[37],[38] Given that burnout is closely associated with social media addiction, some symptoms are similar. Many studies have shown that burnout may be linked to depression and anxiety, as well as substance abuse and suicidality.[28],[39],[40],[41],[42],[43]

Given the importance of social media addiction and its effects, more needs to be done to tackle its spread among health-care students and professionals. Unfortunately, this is quite difficult because social media apps are readily available and easy to use at any time and in any place. Therefore, the most effective way is thought to be promoting self-control strategies.[44] Similarly, given the importance of burnout and its effects, action is required to limit its spread as well. Burnout prevention programs should be developed to assist health-care students and professionals to cope with the syndrome.[45] Such programs could include training sessions on stress coping mechanisms,[46] staff support groups,[47] social skill development sessions,[48] and social cognitive approaches.[49]

Even though our findings highlight the relationship between social media addiction and burnout among health-care students and professionals, a few limitations do exist. First, the study did not compare the correlation between social media addiction and burnout among different groups (i.e., students, interns/residents, and specialists/consultants). Second, it did not examine the different factors that affect social media addiction and burnout in the study sample. Third, the study's cross-sectional design does not allow for making causal inferences. Fourth, the convenience sampling method and nature of the recruitment process do not allow for generalizing the results and could be affected by selection bias. Finally, the study depended on self-reporting of data, which might affect the accuracy of the statistical relationships found.

  Conclusion Top

The current study investigated the relationship between social media addiction and burnout among health-care practitioners and students of different health specialties in Saudi Arabia. The results indicated that excessive social media use and burnout are prevalent among health-care students and professionals. In addition, they show that social media addiction is associated with an increased risk of burnout. This study is the first of its kind in the Kingdom, and it highlights a serious issue. There is a need for detailed research that assesses the correlation between social media addiction and burnout in different groups (i.e., students, interns/residents, and specialists/consultants) and examines the different factors that affect social media addiction and burnout among health-care professionals. Moreover, research that examines how social media affects health and the interventions required to address the issue is required.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Research quality and ethics statement

The study was approved by the Institutional Board Committee of the first author's institute (Reference No. HAPO-02-K-012-2022-04-1048). Participation in this study was anonymous and voluntary, and all participants signed an informed consent form prior to participating. This study was done according to the reporting quality, formatting, and reproducibility guidelines set forth by the EQUATOR Network.

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  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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