For many of us, it’s hard to imagine a world without social media. What would we do with all that time we spend scrolling through Instagram or stalking old classmates on Facebook? But in recent years, researchers have questioned if its presence is a good thing. In fact, several studies have found Instagram, Facebook and other likeminded platforms to be detrimental to our mental health. However, according to a new study, the opposite may be true. Social media can actually reduce an adult’s risk of experiencing depression or anxiety — and yes, that means Facebook may be good for your mental health.
The study, published in the Journal of Computer Mediated-Communication, analyzed data from 13,000 adult relationships in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the world’s longest-running household survey. Researchers found that social media users were 63 percent less likely to experience mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, than those not using these sites, and the reason was simple: According to Keith Hampton, lead researcher and professor of media and information at Michigan State University, these platforms make it easier for individuals to stay connected — to family members and important health information.
Of course, the extent to which these sites affect one’s emotional and mental health varies, depending on the platform you use and who you interact with. For example, it’s better to connect with family than with old school friends. What’s more, while Hampton’s results are promising, some groups were still considered “at risk.” Women, black and Hispanic people were more likely to experience high levels of psychological distress.
Plus, not everyone agrees that Facebook has its mental health perks. A 2018 study conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania found the opposite to be true, specifically that there was a direct link between social media and depression and loneliness. “What we found overall is that if you use less social media, you are actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased social media use is what causes that qualitative shift in your well-being,” Jordyn Young, co-author of the paper and senior at the University of Pennsylvania, has said.
Still, the research seems hopeful.
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