Objectives The Social media, Smartphone use and Self-Harm (3S-YP) study is a prospective observational cohort study to investigate the mechanisms underpinning associations between social media and smartphone use and self-harm in a clinical youth sample. We present here a comprehensive description of the cohort from baseline data and an overview of data available from baseline and follow-up assessments. Methods Young people aged 13-25 years were recruited from a mental health trust in England and followed up for 6 months. Self-report data was collected at baseline and monthly during follow- up and linked with electronic health records (EHR) and user-generated data. Findings A total of 362 young people enrolled and provided baseline questionnaire data. Most participants had a history of self-harm according to clinical (n = 295, 81.5%) and broader definitions (n = 296, 81.8%). At baseline, there were high levels of current moderate/severe anxiety (n = 244; 67.4%), depression (n = 255; 70.4%) and sleep disturbance (n = 171; 47.2%). Over half used social media and smartphones after midnight on weekdays (n = 197, 54.4%; n = 215, 59.4%) and weekends (n = 241, 66.6%; n = 263, 72.7%), and half met the cut-off for problematic smartphone use (n = 177; 48.9%). Of the cohort, we have questionnaire data at month 6 from 230 (63.5%), EHR data from 345 (95.3%), social media data from 110 (30.4%) and smartphone data from 48 (13.3%). Conclusion The 3S-YP study is the first prospective study with a clinical youth sample, for whom to investigate the impact of digital technology on youth mental health using novel data linkages. Baseline findings indicate self-harm, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and digital technology overuse are prevalent among clinical youth. Future analyses will explore associations between outcomes and exposures over time and compare self-report with user-generated data in this cohort.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0299059
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5 May
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


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