Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Facebook could help us live longer, according to a new study

iStock_81164455_MEDIUM.jpg

Studies praising the positive effects of social media on our health are few and far between, with the overwhelming opinion currently being that increased screen time and 24-hour connectivity, brings with it a whole barrage of concerns.

But a new research paper, published in journal PNAS, has asserted that in fact, social media sites like Facebook could actually be associated with a longer life.

Claiming that online communities mirror the effects of time spent face to face with our peers, the study suggests that a busy digital social life could reap the same benefits as an off-screen one.

woman using social media on tablet

Conducted by researchers in California, the study compared the health records and longevity of 12 million Facebook users with nonusers.

Perhaps surprisingly, the findings suggest that with moderate use, social networks can connect people in similar ways to the old fashioned form of socialising, and bring about some of the same benefits.

It’s well documented that a bigger social support network is linked with better health and longevity, perhaps, say researchers, because the more we socialise the more we likely we are to engage in healthy behaviours such as physical activity and mental or emotional unburdening (talking through our issues etc).


 Read more: A week away from Facebook can increase happiness, study reveals


Using this as their cue, the authors behind the new study explored the ways in which we all interact online, finding that where behaviour simulates face to face interaction, the benefits are greater.

Those who tend to share photographs with their friends, for example, rather than simply using messaging functions, were linked to lower mortality rates. Similarly, those who accepted more friend requests than they sent out, also enjoyed lower mortality rates.

two women using social media on phone

“Just like numerous past studies of real world social networks, we find that people with more friends online are less likely to die than their disconnected counterparts,” the report says.

“This evidence contradicts assertions that social media have had a net-negative impact on health. Both comparisons between users and nonusers and between low users and high users suggest that social media use is predictive of lower mortality.

“If social media use were extremely unhealthy, we would expect to find an overall positive relationship between use and mortality, but we do not.”


Read more: Six things we learned about the psychological impact of being a Facebook addict


Despite the positive findings however, the authors of the paper are, for the moment at least, reluctant to use it to inform recommendations on social media use.

Talking to the New York Times, lead author William Hobbs, now a postdoctoral fellow at Northeastern University, Boston, said: “At this point, we’re not making any recommendations on how people should use social media.

“It’s good to have a long track record of finding these relationships again and again before we start giving recommendations.”

Related

harry potter film still.jpg

Harry Potter yoga is now a thing for magical relaxation

zayn malik.jpg

Zayn Malik opens up about past eating disorder

Melanin goddess.jpg

Meet the model going viral after being bullied over her skin tone

Comments

More

First Dates viewers in tears over cancer survivor’s “perfect ending”

Sarah, who had her leg amputated at 16, just wanted someone to carry her into the sea

by Kayleigh Dray
26 Apr 2017

11 craft beers to make you feel summery whatever the weather

Bottles and cans to lift your spirits (beers)

by Amy Swales
26 Apr 2017

If your name is on this list, you’re probably a Viking descendant

Does the blood of those fierce Scandinavian warriors course through your veins?

by Kayleigh Dray
26 Apr 2017

#hummuscrisis is happening and people don’t know how to feel

There’s a supermarket shortage of your favourite chickpea dip

by Amy Swales
26 Apr 2017

All the Disney live-action adaptations in the pipeline

A release date for the live-action remake of The Lion King has just been confirmed

26 Apr 2017

These are the UK's best paying companies

Where to apply to get the money rolling in.

by Hayley Spencer
26 Apr 2017

This woman's surprising message about sharing has gone viral

“Just say no. You don’t have to say anything else”

by Kayleigh Dray
26 Apr 2017

Here’s how to put your gin habit to good use

Mother’s ruin is charity’s gain

by Amy Swales
25 Apr 2017

This new WhatsApp update will finally let you “unsend” messages

*Monkey covering eyes emoji*

by Moya Crockett
25 Apr 2017

Watch: the trailer for the Dirty Dancing TV remake has landed

And *that* lift is in evidence...

by Amy Swales
25 Apr 2017