Introduction: Recently, there has been an alarming increase in psychological distress in many populations. One of the reasons can be attributed to the rapid development of technology and social media, which could adversely affect the mental health of individuals, including those working in healthcare. This study aimed to assess the influence of social media addiction, psychological distress, and loneliness on suicidal ideations and suicide attempts among healthcare students and professionals in Saudi Arabia.
Materials and methods: This cross-sectional study collected data from healthcare students and professionals using a five-part questionnaire: (i) demographics, (ii) the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale (BSMAS), (iii) the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), (iv) the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale (DGLS), and (v) suicide ideation and attempts scale.
Results: There were 800 participants from 33 cities who completed the questionnaire. A total of 31.37% reported lifelong thoughts of suicide, regardless of whether they would actually go through with it (S1), 18.38% had suicidal thoughts within the last 12 months (S2), and 11% had attempted suicide (S3). Of those who attempted suicide, 79 (89.77%) reported seeking help. Multiple logistic regression showed that lifetime suicidal thoughts were predicted by psychological distress, emotional loneliness (EL), social loneliness (SL), and age. Having had suicidal thoughts within the prior 12 months was predicted by psychological distress, SL, and age. Suicidal attempts were predicted by psychological distress, EL, age, and social media addiction.
Conclusions: Our findings demonstrated that psychological distress and loneliness are strongly associated with suicidal ideas and suicide attempts. Such results could serve as a warning call that assists healthcare professionals and mental health teams in arranging and planning effective interventions and actions to raise awareness, as well as reduce the levels of psychological distress and loneliness that could lead to grave consequences.