Social Comparison and Mental Health

Danielle Arigo, Iris Bercovitz, Emmanuel Lapitan, Sofia Gular

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose of Review: Opportunities for social comparison, or self-evaluation relative to others, are increasingly common via technologies such as mobile apps and social media. Comparison is often assumed to be detrimental for mental health, as many studies show negative associations. Yet, the majority of existing studies use weak methods that do little to inform clinical efforts. The goals of this review are to describe advances in methods for studying the impact of social comparisons on mental health and to identify critical next steps to advance treatment. Recent Findings: Methods such as intensive ambulatory assessment (e.g., ecological momentary assessment), creative approaches to experimental manipulation, and just-in-time adaptive interventions are increasingly popular and reveal the complexity of social comparison’s short- and longer-term effects. Findings highlight the need for personalized and context-sensitive approaches to promoting mental health. Summary: Historical assumptions about the role of social comparison in mental health outcomes are based on a preponderance of cross-sectional research that offers little to our understanding of mechanistic pathways or effective treatments. As the consequences of comparisons can be negative or positive, in the short and long terms, and can vary within person, there is a pressing need for treatment approaches that address this complexity in context.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Psychiatry
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this