Using Facebook may help you live longer, study finds
While Facebook is often criticized for cutting off family time and risking our children in this ever increasingly globalized world, on the other hand, there is a new study that suggests using Facebook can improve health and increase longevity.
The study was based on 12 million social media profiles made available to the researchers by Facebook, as well as records from the California Department of Health.
“Both comparisons between users and nonusers and between low users and high users suggest that social media use is predictive of lower mortality. Happily, for almost all Facebook users, what we found is balanced use and a lower risk of mortality,” said James Fowler, Professor at the University of California-San Diego.
“The association between longevity and social networks was identified in 1979 and has been replicated hundreds of times since.
“Social relationships seem to be as predictive of lifespan as smoking, and more predictive than obesity and physical inactivity. We’re adding to that conversation by showing that online relationships are associated with longevity, too.”
The researchers William Hobbs and James Fowler studied people born between 1945 and 1989, and all the comparisons were made between people of similar age and gender. They monitored their online activity over a period of 6 months. In addition, they also compared the activity of those still living with those who had died.
The first significant finding is that the average Facebook user lives longer than those who are not, and were nearly 12 per cent less likely to die than someone who doesn’t use the social networking website in a given year.
Users with average or large social networks, in the top 50 to 30 percent, lived longer than those in the lowest 10 percent – a finding consistent with classic studies of offline relationships and longevity. This result is in line with previous studies of offline relationships and longevity.
The researchers also took into consideration the number of friends, photos, status updates, wall posts, and messages sent to see if those who were more active lived longer. If users posted more photos of face-to-face social activity, offline social activity was considered to be higher.
Facebook users with the highest levels of offline social activity also have the highest longevity, the team found. Also, moderate levels of online-only activity, such as writing posts and messages, were related to lowest levels of mortality.
“Interacting online seems to be healthy when the online activity is moderate and complements interactions offline. It is only on the extreme end, spending a lot of time online with little evidence of being connected to people otherwise, that we see a negative association.”
In addition, the study found that Facebook users who accepted the most friendships requests lived the longest, which researchers say could suggest that being popular also helps people to live longer.
The study has been published in the paper ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.’