Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Findley Finseth

Reader 2

Adam Novy

Rights Information

© YYYY Caroline R Cook


This study investigates the influence of social media on the prevalence of various diseases, exploring whether functional disorders exhibit higher changes in prevalence rates post-social media emergence when compared to organic disorders. The investigation seeks to uncover whether social media platforms can spread mass psychogenic illnesses, acting as catalysts for the manifestation and adoption of symptoms resembling specific disorders, and potentially contributing to heightened prevalence rates. There is not only a large financial impact that comes with these mass psychogenic illness outbreaks, but lots of time and resources become wasted. Epidemiological data from before and after the emergence of social media was used to compare disease prevalence rates and observed an apparent increase in specific functional disorders, notably irritable bowel syndrome, borderline personality disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome. In contrast, organic diseases showed varied prevalence shifts and no notable pattern. While a statistical analysis yielded insignificant results, individual disease patterns suggest potential trends. Numerous confounding variables beyond social media (lifestyle, socioeconomic factors, healthcare access, environmental factors, evolving diagnostic trends, the COVID-19 pandemic) complicated isolating its influence on disease prevalence, however, the study prompts consideration of social media’s potential role in influencing disease prevalence and suggests avenues for further cognitive psychological exploration. Understanding the impact of disorder-related social media content on individuals’ susceptibility to manifest various symptoms is crucial to understanding the ways to counter misinformation and enhance mental health literacy online.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.