Student & ECR Spotlight – Saptorshi Gupta aims to explore the effect of social media use on sedentary time, physical activity and mental health

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

I am an incoming Ph.D. student in Population Health at Arizona State University, College of Health Solutions, USA. I graduated with a gold medal in Biostatistics and Demography from the International Institute for Population Sciences, India. Subsequently, I spent a year at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, working on various issues related to the Digital Economy as a Research Assistant. I also hold a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, India.

What is your main research interest?

The rapid increase in digitalization has had obvious effects on population health. The COVID-19 pandemic and eventual lockdowns have led to an increase in screen time, especially among adolescents and young adults. Additionally, the surge in the use of food delivery apps and OTT platforms have led to worsening dietary habits and a rise in sedentary time. My research interest revolves around determining the impact of digitalization on both physical and mental health among different strata of the population. I am also interested in devising policy recommendations for meaningful digital media use without having adverse effects on health.

What are the main barriers you encounter/experience when conducting research, or what information/skills do you lack to conduct high quality research?

As an early career researcher hailing from a developing country, the main barrier encountered at different stages of research has been a lack of adequate funding. This has led to the postponement of ambitious research plans, the inability to conduct extensive field visits to increase sample size, not being able to afford publication fees in high-impact journals, and withdrawing from seminars, workshops, and summer schools due to high participation costs.

Given unlimited funding, what would your dream research project be?

I have always wanted to conduct field surveys to understand varying human behaviors in different regions. Given unlimited funding, I would conduct an extensive survey to capture the digital media use on physical activity, sleep patterns, and dietary habits. I would also like to supplement this study with a qualitative interview to understand the perception of parents on social media use and its effects on their children. Finally, I wish to conduct an experiment to use social media to increase physical activity among adolescents. The hypothesis would be to check if physical activity increases due to promotional social media advertisements encouraging enrolment in community-based fitness programs. To start with, this experiment can be conducted in small communities like colleges or schools where children are encouraged to participate in these programs, track their physical health and improve their diet through a social media-based reward system.


If you would like to get in touch with Saptorshi, you can do so via LinkedIn @Saptorshi Gupta.