New study reveals health impact of social media use
Posted on the 14th March 2023
Reducing social media use by 15 minutes a day can significantly improve general health and immune function and reduce levels of loneliness and depression.
Published in the Journal of Technology in Behavior Science, the study by Swansea University was conducted over three months. The research examined the effects on physical health and psychological functioning of getting people to reduce their social media usage by 15 minutes a day.
50 participants (33 female and 17 male), aged 20-25, answered monthly questions about their health and psychological function and also provided weekly reports on their social media usage.
The outcomes were compared to groups that were not asked to reduce their usage or were explicitly asked to do something other than social media during those 15 minutes.
The results showed that the group asked to reduce their social media use had an average 15 per cent improvement in immune function, including fewer colds, flu, warts, and verrucae; a 50 per cent improvement in sleep quality; and 30 per cent fewer depressive symptoms.
These improvements were significantly greater than those experienced by the other two groups, neither of which showed any changes in those measures.
Those instructed to reduce their usage ended up doing so by about 40 minutes a day, rather than the 15 minutes requested, whereas there was a daily 10-minute increase for the group asked not to do anything.
Strikingly, the group specifically asked to do something other than social media increased their usage by around 25 minutes a day.
While previous studies have noted a correlation between reduced social media usage and improvements in psychological well-being, this new report is important in that it shows an experimentally-controlled relationship, which suggests a causal relationship between social media reduction and improved physical health.