News Highlights


Rural LGBTQ+ study: Recruitment now open

We are now recruiting participats who live in a rural setting and self-identify as LGBTQ+. The study involves a research interview about new online technologies to enhance social support among rural LGBTQ+ populations. Additional information can be found on the study recruitment page



2019 MTH Outstanding Leadership Award

It is our pleasure to announce the winner of the 2019 MTH Outstanding Leadership Award, Dr. Jaime Sidani, in recognition of her tremendous mentorship, support, stategic planning, and for continuously bolstering team morale. Congratulations, Dr. Sidani!


Michelle Woods Becomes the Digital Media Writer for the Division of General Internal Medicine

In October, Communications Officer Michelle Woods, who joined MTH in 2016, moved to a new position as the Digital Media Writer within the Division of General Internal Medicine. In her new role, she will promote General Internal Medicine's research, clinical, and educational missions by overseeing all digital media activity, including social media, website design and development, media relations, and internal communications.


Beth Hoffman Speaks on Second Opinion TV Show

On two separate panels, Beth Hoffman's expertise was sought out by the Second Opinion TV show. First, she spoke on a panel about childhood vaccines with Dr. Todd Wolynn, one her coauthors from her Facebook anti-vaccination research project, which was part of her MPH thesis. She also contributed to the show that focused on millennial health.


Assistant Director Dr. Jaime E. Sidani Promoted to Assistant Professor of Medicine

In August, MTH celebrated Assistant Director Dr. Jaime E. Sidani's leadership, hard work, and dedication that led to her promotion to Assistant Professor of Medicine.


Network-Informed Vaping Prevention Study in Pittsburgh Middle Schools

The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has awarded MTH's Dr. Kar-Hai Chu a grant for leading a vaping prevention study in Pittsburgh middle schools. This timely research responds to the nearly 50% increase in e-cigarette use among middle school students in 2018. Dr. Chu also received a Junior Scholar Award for Population Sciences Cancer Research from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center for his research on tobacco implications and next steps. Congratulations, Dr. Chu!


Social Media Intervention for Reducing Social Isolation Among Rural LGBTQ Youth

Dr. Cesar Escobar-Viera received a pilot grant through Pitt's ETUDES Center to develop and assess a social media-delivered intervention to optimize social media use and reduce social isolation among rural sexual and gender minority youth.


Founding Director Dr. Brian A. Primack to Become New Dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas

Dr. Brian A. Primack founded MTH as the Program for Research on Media, Technology, and Health in 2010 to investigate the associations between media messages, technology, and health outcomes. Since then, it has grown into the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, pairing innovative health research (more than 90 publications) and mentorship of Pitt graduate and undergraduate students.  In 2017, Dr. Primack became the Dean of the University of Pittsburgh Honors College, in addition to his role as Director of MTH. In April this year, he announced his new position as the Dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas, to begin July 1. MTH and the University of Pittsburgh Department of Medicine wish him well. We will miss his dedication to mentorship and research at Pitt.


Anti-Vaccination Sentiment on Facebook

After a September 2017 video promoting the HPV vaccine was posted on Kids Plus Pediatrics Facebook page, it received thousands of anti-vaccination comments. Research from MTH, published in Vaccine, analyzes who the posters were, what information they post, and how they are connected. Media coverage of the story includes Mashable, Newsweek, CNN, the Washington Post, Daily Mail UK, and the Verge. The press release is available here



MTH's Dr. Jaime Sidani provided commentary on the state and appeal of hookah smoking among adolescents and young adults to Health Line, which wrote a feature on a recent article about the toxic chemicals in hookah, published in Circulation.


Society of Behavioral Medicine 40th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions

The Soceity of Behavioral Medicine 40th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions took place in March in Washington, DC. MTH's research was shared through ficve poster presenations and two oral presntations. Abstracts and press releases are available here.


Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine 40th Annual Meeting

In March, MTH attended the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, where the team presented four posters, one of which was part of a poster symposia. Topics included anti-vaccination sentiment on Facebook, emotional support on social media, and analyses of JUUL on both Twitter and Instagram. 


CBS News Feature on Loneliness

MTH's Dr. Brian Primack talks to CBS News about how the more social media we use, the lonlier we are likely to be. He talks about self-comparison to unrealisitc ideals from curated social media posts. View the clip and read the story here.


Negative Experineces on Social Media Increase Likelihood of Loneliness

New research from MTH found that negative experiences on social media increase the lielihood of reporting loneliness, though positive interactions don't make people feel more connected. “Social media is, seemingly, about connecting people. So it is surprising and interesting that our investigations reveal social media being linked to loneliness,” said lead author Brian Primack, MD, PhD, in the press release. The research, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, was covered by national and international news sources, including Forbes, Science Daily, Business Standard, and Hindustan Times


Teens, Nicotine, and Vaping

In January, Dr. Brian Primack was interviewed about the state of current vaping trends in this video news clip from KDKA.


Dr. Brian A. Primack, Featured Grantee of National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health featured MTH's Dr. Brian A. Primack in a profile that describes our current reserach using Twitter to monitor nicotine and tobacco-related cancer communicaiton, as well as more broadly discussing his research interests and motivations. Read the profile here.


Annual Report 2018

MTH's 2018 Annual Report has all of the latest updates on our new publications, current grants, collaborations, and more. Plus, features include student profiles, speaking engagements, and news coverage of our social media and metal health research, as well as news on tobacco use including JUUL. Check out how MTH supported the Univeristy of Pittsburgh's theme, Year of Pitt Global, with international news coverage and the translation of our smoking media literacy scale into four languages! 


JUUL's Adolescent Twitter Followers

In October, MTH research JUUL: Spreading Online and Offline was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, where an editorial about the promotion of JUUL on Twitter cited our study. News coverage of the study's release included U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, and CBS News. When JUUL announced the company's decision to stop using Facebook and Instagram in mid-November, lead author Dr. Kar-Hai Chu commented on the decision for news sources including CNN and his recent study was mentioned by other sources including AP News.


MTH Commentary on TIME's Article on Screen Time and Mental Health

Following a recent study by Jean Twenge, a researcher/speaker who visited MTH earlier this year, TIME reached out to MTH for commentary on kid's mental health as related to screen time usage.


American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2017 Article of the Year

MTH's research article "Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S." was named the American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2017 Article of the Year. The full announcement is available here, as well as a video in which Dr. Brian Primack talks about the research and field of social media and mental health research.


MTH on NPR's All Things Considered

"Is Everyone Happier Than You on Social Media?" Dr. Primack adds to the conversations with information about the relationship between social media and mental health, recommending not to dismiss social media as fully bad, but instead to find a healthy balance. Read or listen to the full segment here.


Facebook and Instagram to Launch New Featues to Help Users Manage Time Spent on Social Media

With MTH studies and other research indicating a relationship between time spent on social media and feelings of social isolation, anxiety, and depression, Facebook and Instagram are rolling out a new feature to help users manage time spent on social media. MTH's Dr. Primack weights in that it's a meaningful start, but it remains to be seen how effective it will be in actually changing behavior. Read the full story on CNBC.


Washington Post Live: Mental Health and Well-Being in America

The Washington Post hosted a live streamed conversation between policymakers, healthcare experts and advocates about mental health care in the U.S. and links between technolgoy use and mental well-being. Guests included MTH's Dr. Brian Primack, Mary Giliberti of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Dr. Joshua Gordon of the National Institute of Mental Health, among others. Check out the recording here or the transcript here.


Negative vs. Positive Social Media Experiences and Depressive Symptoms

New MTH research on social media and mental health found that positive experiences on social media protective against depressive symptoms, whereas negative experiences on social media were related to a 20% increase in reports of drepssive symptoms. This research was published in Depression and Anxiety in June and covered in many news sources, including Forbes, Fox News, U.S. News and World Report, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; radio shows such as WBUR and KDKA; and even across the world in news outlets such as Daily Mail UKTribune India , Geo News in Pakistan, and Times of India.


Hookah Responsible for Over Half of Tobacco Smoke Inhaled by Young Smokers

Several news articles covered our new research, published in Tobacco Control following the press release. News coverage included ABC, Pittsburgh Post-GazetteQuartz, NPR Pittsburgh, and WebMD.


Social Media and Disturbed Sleep

Drs. Sidani and Levenson describe their research on social media and sleep disturbance in an easy-to-read format on Oxford University Press's blog. The post details why the study was done, who was involved, how sleep disturbance and social media use were measured, results, limitations, and an expalnation of how the study adds to current knowledge of social media use outcomes.


MTH Co-Sponsored Guest Speaker Dr. Jean Twenge

Cultural Trends Shaping iGen:  Individualism, Insecurity, Internet, and In No Hurry to Grow Up

Dr. Twenge addressed how American culture has grown steadily more individualistic over the last few decades. Based on data from nationally representative surveys of 11 million adolescents and young adults, this resulted in generational shifts favoring individual freedom and less importance placed on marriage and family. For Millennials (born 1980-1994), individualism led to more positive self-views and more happiness as teens, but that trend reversed for iGen (born 1995-2012), who are less happy, more lonely, and more depressed. iGen spends more time online and on social media and less time interacting with friends in person than previous generations at the same age, a pattern of time use associated with compromised mental health. iGen is also growing up more slowly, taking longer to engage in adult activities such as working, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol.


Vaping: Gateway to Cigarettes?

In an interview with WPSD, Dr. Primack talked about adolescent e-cigarette use and MTH research about initiation to cigarette smoking. Dr. Primack said, "Just like it used to be they were smoking in the bathrrom stalls, they are vaping in bathrooms or after school."


Technology Addiction and Loneliness

Time sought the expertise of Dr. Primack on whether smartphones cause more harm than good. CNBC hosted a discussion on the effects of technology and social media, for which MTH's Dr. Primack provided commentary. This discussion, centered around the role of app developers and parents in children's technology use, comes just as Apple is under scrutiny for smartphone addiction. Watch the conversation here.

The Today Show interviewed Dr. Primack about social media and social isolation. Watch the interview, or read the related article.

CBC Radio interviewed a panel of experts on the question, "Should Canada develop a strategy to combat the growing problem of loneliness?" Dr. Brian Primack contributed recent MTH research on how social media is related to social isolation.

NPR Conneticut featured Dr. Primack on the Where We Live Segment, titled, "Does Social Media Cause Social Isolation?" Dr. Primack discussed pros and cons of social media use, including how amount of time spent on social media is related to depression and social isolation.

In a Guardian article on the YouTube shooting, reporter Roy Carroll saught the expertise of Dr. Primack on how social media is related to feelings of social isolation. The Guardian also published an article, "The connection compulsion," which cited the social media and social isolation research.


Annual Report 2017

Our Annual Report covers the year's highlights, including one of our research articles being ranked as the University of Pittsburgh's #1 publicized article for 2017. It also includes our most recent research publications and presentations, as well as features on our student collaborators.


E-cigarette Use and Subsequent Initiation of Cigarette Smoking

The American Journal of Medicine recently published MTH research, "Initiation of Traditional Cigarette Smoking after Electronic Cigarette Use among Tobacco-Naïve U.S. Young Adults." Media coverage included the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, International Business Times, and Tribune-Review. In 2018, USA Today cited the study in reference to the FDA's discussion of banning flavored e-cigarette liquids.


When Facebook Asks If Social Media Is Bad for Us

In December, Facebook's newsroom posted an article by researchers at Facebook entitled "Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?" A response article in The Guardian compiled research and expert opinions, including MTH's Dr. Primack, to explore that question.


MTH Presentations at APHA 2017 Annual Meeting

MTH presented a total of 8 posters, roundtables, and oral presentations at American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Expo in November. Topics ranged from social media and mental health to alternative tobacco products. See a full list of our presentations here.


Portryal of Alcohol Brands on YouTube

In September, MTH published "Portrayal of Alcohol Brands Popular Among Underage Youth on YouTube: A Content Analysis" in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Among the findings were that YouTube videos depicting alcohol brands favored by underage youth are heavily viewed, and the majority are traditional or narrative advertisements. News outlets such as U.S. News & World Report, ScienMag, the BMJ, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Hindustan Times in India covered the release of this research. In December, JSAD also published a letter to the editor in regards to our research.


Screen Use and Mental Health

Dr. Primack, interviewed by Weight Watchers, describes what MTH research around mental health and multiple social media platforms, social isolation, anxiety and depression.


Pokemon Go, the App that Turned a Video Game into a Movement, Has its First Birthday

July 6th was the first birthday of Pokemon Go, an augmented reality mobile game that incentivizes moving, and Dr. Primack spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the effect of the game on health and wellbeing.


Status of Vaping in 2017

In August, the New Pittsburgh Courier featured e-cigarettes on their health page, including comments from Dr. Brian Primack on what e-cigarettes are and why their use is being regulated and an editorial by Dr. Kar-Hai Chu on the link between vaping and social media.


Dr. Primack weighed in on a June JAMA Pediatrics study that found adolescents who try e-cigarettes are more than three times as likely to take up smoking traditional cigarettes. Read the full story in Reuters here.


Pitt Analysis Determines Odds of a Hookah Non-Smoker Taking First Puff

In May, MTH published "Initiation, Progression, and Sustained Waterpipe Use: A Nationally Representative Longitudinal Study of U.S. Young Adults" in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Read about the research in the press release and news coverage in Futurity.


Ways to Stay Energized All DayPurge Your Facebook Friends

Time Health compiled a list of eight ways to stay energized all day, and MTH's Dr. Primack weighed in about the positive and negative ways social media may affect mental health and well-being.


"Put Down the Phone" Music Video & the Science Behind It

MTH's Dr. Brian Primack was interviewed by CBS Pittsburgh in relation to a new music video by Pittsburgh rapper Jordan York called "Put Down the Phone." Dr. Primack spoke about why social media can be addictive and how it can increase feeling of depression, anxiety, and isolation. You can read the story and watch the news clip here.


Allegheny County's Proposed E-Cigarette Regulations

On Monday, March 6, UPMC and Pitt medical experts, including MTH's Dr. Primack, met in a press conference supporting Allegheny County's proposed e-cigarette regulations. You can watch a clip reel online here, or read about the coverage from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or the Tribune-Review. The regulations passed on March 7.


Social Media and Social Isolation

In March, MTH published "Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the U.S." in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The official press release can be read here. Other news appearances include the NIH Director's BlogNPRBBC, Times of Malta, Australian National TV, and 12 live interviews for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for major Canadian markets (similar to the NPR in the US).

Ways Social Media Makes Millennials Feel Insecure

Forbes cited MTH's 2016 study on social media and drepression saying that the that subjects who reported the most frequent use of social media had 2.7 times more likelihood of depression than those who used it less frequently.


MTH Releases its 2016 Annual Report

The 2016 annual report features the Center's news and accomplishments, including several new publications on social media and mental health, new staff and faculty, and recent conference presentations.


Use of Multiple Social Media Platforms and Depression

In December, MTH published Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among U.S. young adults in Computers in Human Behavior. The official press release can be read here, and news appearances include KDKA-AM radio, Yahoo! News, and NPR Pittsburgh (WESA), as well international coverages, such as El Comercio in Ecquador.


Frequent vaping by teens linked to heavy smoking later

After a study published in JAMA found that teenagers who vape are more likely to become regular smokers Yahoo! News sought commentary from other professionals in tobacco research.

Instagram takes steps to identify troubling posts, answer users' cries for help

Social media photo-sharing platform Instagram just released a support system for users to flag posts related to self-harm or eating disorders. Pittsburgh Triubune-Review covered the developments, supported by medical and communications professionals, including Dr. Primack.

Can you treat anxiety with YouTube videos?

Dr. Primack and other experts weighed in on how YouTube videos about mental health can counter social stigma and serve as helpful resources for individuals suffering from anxiety. This was covered in The Guardian.

Is Social Media Harming Students?

In the September 2016 issueIB World magazine discussed MTH’s study on the relationship between depression and frequency of social media. The article reviewed the findings, and included comments made by Dr. Brian Primack.

Social Media and Eating Concerns

In May, researchers from MTH published a paper in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on the relationship between social media use and eating concerns. The paper was picked up by 105 news outlets and earned an Altmetric score of 840, the highest for any article published in this journal. The official press release can be read here, an interview that discusses the paper can be found here, and news appearances included The Daily Mail UKYahoo! NewsMedical Daily, and PsychCentral.

Special Presentation by Dr. Ryan McGarry

Ryan McGarry, MD, clinical instructor of emergency medicine at Cornell University and executive producer of the CBS drama Code Black, delivered a special presentation in Scaife Hall where he discussed how Code Black and other television dramas can harbor significant educational worth beyond entertainment value. The video and additional information are available here.

Social Media and Depression

In April, researchers from MTH published a paper in the journal Depression and Anxiety on the relationship between social media use and depression among U.S. young adults. The paper earned an Altmetric score of 883, the highest for any article published in this journal. The official press release can be read here, and news appearances include US News and World ReportYahoo! NewsThe Toronto StarThe Tribune ReviewForbes, and twice in Cosmopolitan magazine (1)(2). It also made international headlines, such as VEČER in Slovenia and News Ghana

Society of Behavioral Medicine Presentations

Researchers from the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health presented a total of seven poster and four oral presentations on a variety of topics at the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s annual conference in Washington D.C. this March. MTH statistician Ariel Shensa’s poster was featured in an article by Reuters UK, a rare feat for a poster presentation. A summary of the presentations can be found here.

Social Media and Sleep Disturbance

Dr. Jessica Levenson of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychiatry worked with Dr. Primack, Dr. Sidani, Mr. Colditz, and Ms. Shensa of CRMTH to author a study published in Preventive Medicine on the relationship between social media use and sleep disturbance. News appearances included The Huffington PostNBC News, Shape, NPR Pittsburgh (WESA)Pittsburgh Business Times, and The Daily Mail UK. 

MTH Releases its First Annual Report

The year 2015 was one of growth for the Center. In this, our first annual report, we chronicle our activities and accomplishments.


Hookah Meta-Analysis in Public Health Reports

In January, researchers from CRMTH, The University of Pittsburgh, and Dartmouth University published a systematic review and meta-analysis in Public Health Reports that examined the most relevant studies comparing hookah to cigarettes. News appearances included WESA 90.5 (NPR Pittsburgh), Tech TimesMen's FitnessThe Huffington PostYahoo! News, and The Daily Mail UK. The day after its publication, reports about the study began to 'trend' on Facebook, appearing as a featured news story.

E-cigarette Use and Progression Toward Cigarette Smoking

In November 2015, researchers at CRMTH and Dartmouth University published a study on the "Progression to Traditional Cigarette Smoking after Electronic Cigarette Use among US Adolescents and Young Adults" in JAMA Pediatrics. The study received national and international attention, with coverage in WESA: Essential Pittsburgh, TIME, The Washington Post, US News and World Report, and Hindustan Times (of India). In January 2017, the NIH Director's Blog cited the study's results.

Children and Electronics

Local Pittsburgh news station WTAE interviewed Dr. Primack for its story the overuse of electronics by children and the resultant missing out on outdoor activities that occur during the summer.

Society of General Internal Medicine Presentations

Researchers at CRMTH brought a variety of thought-provoking research topics to the Society of General Internal Medicine’s (SGIM) annual conference in Toronto in April 2015. 

Alcohol Intoxication on YouTube

Dr. Primack was interviewed on NPR’s Here and Now about his study on the Portrayal of Alcohol Intoxication on YouTube, which examined more than 70 popular YouTube videos and found that intoxication is mostly depicted as fun and humorous, with few references to the negative consequences of drinking. Dr. Primack discussed his study and how analyzing the videos may help debunk myths about drinking and help design interventions.

2014 & Prior

"Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health" is Founded

In September 2014, The University of Pittsburgh announced the founding of The Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health.

Dr. Primack is a Featured Speaker at TEDMED 2014

At TEDMED 2014, Dr. Primack shed light on how principles learned from video game design can be used to create effective changes in health behavior.

Dr. Primack’s Editorial on New Insurance Coverage Policies

In January 2014, JAMA published an editorial co-authored by Dr. Primack on challenges and opportunities arising from new insurance coverage policies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Hookah Smoking

Dr. Sidani’s research on Hookah smoking was featured in a USA Today article on June 5, 2014 titled ”Hitting the hookah: Will the trend rage on, despite recent health warnings?”

Diversification of Tobacco and Nicotine Products

Dr. Primack’s research on students smoking hookah was featured in a lead story on CNN Health on June 7, 2012. The article, titled “1 in 3 college students has smoked hookah,” discusses both the attraction towards and the dangers of smoking hookah.

Media Portrayal of Tobacco Use

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute mentioned Dr. Primack’s research in its March 14, 2012 article, “Watching Movie Stars Light Up May Spur Kids to Smoke.”

Alcohol Brand Appearances in Music

In October 2011, Dr. Primack collaborated with other researchers to publish a study titled “Alcohol brand appearances in US popular music” in the leading substance use journal Addiction. Newspapers worldwide covered the story, including this article on

Mental Health and Media Exposure

Dr. Primack coauthored a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine linking music listening habits to depressions. News coverage included an article titled “Could Pop Music be linked to Depression?” in US News & World Report.

2010 Society of Behavioral Medicine Award

On April 8, 2010, Dr. Primack was selected as Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Top Early Career Researcher. This award recognizes an early-career nominee's total career achievements, including the publication of a representative paper.

Media Exposure in Children

In an article published in Nature on June 10, 2009 titled, “Media Research: The Black Box”, Dr. Primack’s gave several quotes on the importance of researching the influence of media exposure on children and adolescents, and his research on this topic was cited.

Technological Exposures and Depression

Dr. Primack was lead author in a study published in JAMA Psychiatry that examined the association between media use in adolescence and the development of depression in young adulthood. The study was featured in an article in The New York Times titled “Behavior: TV Time Linked to Depression in Future.”

Substance Abuse Messages in Popular Music

In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, Dr. Primack and colleagues found that the average adolescent is exposed to approximately 84 references to explicit substance use daily in popular songs. This research made national news, and was the subject of a New York Times article titled, “Alcohol and Drugs Abound in Pop? Who Knew?

Racial Disparities in Advertising of Dangerous Products

Dr. Primack and colleagus research on racial disparities in cigarette advertising made national headlines. The New York Times published an article titled “Insights: Racial Disparity Affirmed in Tobacco Advertising” about the research, and Dr. Primack was also interviewed on National Public Radio for a segment titled “Blacks Seduced by Smoking Ads? ”

Dr. Primack Receives Award from Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine

Dr. Primack was selected as the new investigator of the year from The Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine. The Society has established the New Investigator Award to recognize professionals who, through excellence in research, have furthered the Society's goals.