According to a new study, moderate use of Facebook can improve longevity. Yes, as bizarre as it may sound, science how now shown that a certain amount of Facebook may actually lead to a longer life.
This particular Facebook study, which was conducted by a team of researchers led by William Hobbs and James Fowler at the University of California-San Diego, was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). As Ashley Welch of CBS News reports, the study looked at 12 million California-based Facebook users, and their records were then juxtaposed with California Department of Public Health vital records.
“For the study, the researchers matched a group of 12 million California Facebook users with vital records from the California Department of Public Health. They analyzed online activity over a six-month period and compared that of those who were still living to those who had died. All those who were studied – whose privacy was maintained – were born between 1945 and 1989. All the comparisons were made between people of similar age and gender.”
Among the selected Facebook users, the aspects that were studied included their number of friends, as well as other typical Facebook functions, such as the frequency of status updates, photos posted, friend requests, timeline postings, sent and received messages, etc. As also reported by Welch, it was found that Facebook users were approximately 12 percent less likely to die in a given year.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) November 1, 2016
There were, however, a couple of big caveats. If there is indeed a link between Facebook and improved longevity, it appears to rely on exactly how the social network is being used. Those who used Facebook to engage in activities such as posting photos, or used it as a complementary tool for their offline social interactions, appeared to benefit the most. It is explained that the results were the greatest for Facebook users who used the social media platform mildly and had “high levels of offline social interaction.”
Obviously, the research doesn’t mean that Facebook should be seen as a replacement for all real-world social interaction. It isn’t exactly time to start saying this proves that Facebook usage equates to a longer life either.
It is important to note that the authors of the study emphasize that it has “many limitations” and the findings are “observational.” They also point to other elements such as socioeconomic status between Facebook users and non-Facebook users which could come into play as well.
“We cannot say that spurring users to post more photos on Facebook will increase user longevity. On the other hand, observational studies are often an important first step for better understanding new phenomena,” the paper says.
In the online and digital age, many have debated if spending too much time on social media, or being in front of screens too often, in general, may be bad for one’s health or well-being. While those concerns certainly remain valid and understandable, the new research may at least throw a little bit of a wrinkle into any thoughts that social media is entirely unhealthy.
“This evidence contradicts assertions that social media have had a net-negative impact on health,” the paper says.
In the study, it is also explained that the researchers discovered a link between receiving a high number of friend requests and a reduced risk of mortality. However, the same cannot be said for sending a high number of friend requests.
— Hamilton Place (@HPSInsight) November 1, 2016
When it comes to the real world, the study further explains that previous research has shown that those who have many friends and strong social bonds to their community usually live longer. Right up until now, there has been a question as to whether or not this translates to the online world.
Facebook, which was first started by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, currently has over a billion users, and it is one of the most popular sites around. Over the years, Facebook has been unique in its ability to help people keep in touch with their friends, especially those who have moved away.
— MirrorTech (@MirrorTech) October 31, 2016
Facebook’s popularity was clearly in great shape already. That said, if there is indeed a link between Facebook and improved longevity, people will have yet another reason to defend their use of the popular social networking site. As the paper points out, however, it will still be important to maintain the proper balance between online and offline social interaction.
It is indeed interesting and exciting to learn that Facebook might be good for longevity, but it will be important not to get carried away, especially when considering the restrictions of the research that exists at this point. In the right dose, Facebook may be beneficial, but it still isn’t a replacement for a good old-fashioned chat or get-together.
[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]