Facebook may actually be good for mental health, a new study suggests

The study analyzed data from nearly a million people in 72 countries over 12 years. According to the paper, evidence of social media-related harm is often more speculative than conclusive.

Aug 9, 2023 - 14:14
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Facebook may actually be good for mental health, a new study suggests

A new scientific study challenges the narrative of social media use being found to be beneficial for mental health.

Researchers from the University of Oxford found that there is no evidence that using Facebook is harmful to well-being.

It follows an analysis of data from nearly a million people in 72 countries over a 12-year period, the largest study of its kind to better understand Facebook's impact on well-being.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, who led the study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, said: "We looked carefully at the best available data and found that it does not support the idea that Facebook membership is associated with harm. Quite the opposite .

"In fact, our analysis shows that Facebook may be associated with positive well-being."

The study looked at Facebook data from 2008 to 2019, when the platform was still in its infancy.

According to the results, the relationship between Facebook use and well-being was slightly more positive for both men and younger people.

In the study, the authors said: "Although reports of negative psychological effects associated with social media are common in academic and popular writing, the evidence for harm is generally more speculative than conclusive."

Commenting on the study, Peter Etchells, Professor of Psychology and Science Communication at the University of Bath Spa, said: "I think the value of this study is proof of principle. It shows that it is possible to use domain knowledge to answer relevant questions . about how digital technology interacts with our mental health."

But he added that the findings come with some caveats that the study authors addressed.

He said: "This is a descriptive study and as such cannot tell us anything about causality. This means that we do not know how, if and to what extent changes in Facebook adoption affect mental well-being.

"Well-being is a complex phenomenon, and even when using social media, we have to be careful about drawing strong conclusions based on how people use a single platform like Facebook."

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