Facebook – it’s been blamed for making us more dishonest and more envious, but could it also be associated with a longer life span? Researchers from the University of California and Yale think so.
An age-controlled study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal today, suggests that people who use the social network live longer than those who don’t.
The study was conducted over a two year period and across 12 million Facebook users but was confined to a Californian demographic.
“in any given year, a Facebook user is 12 per cent less likely to die than a non-user”
It found that certain activities such as accepting friend requests, posting images and getting tagged in images were linked to a reduced mortality rate, and that in any given year, a Facebook user is 12 per cent less likely to die than a non-user.
Interestingly, the activities most associated with this trend are related to real life experiences – like posting a photo from your holiday – while other activities such as scrolling through your news feed or posting a status update aren’t.
Being social in the traditional face-to-face sense has long been associated with longer life and a reduced risk of dying from heart disease, suicide and drug overdose and this study is the first to discover it also rings true for social interactions online.
However, it’s findings don’t necessarily mean that using Facebook will make you live longer. Instead, it simply notes that people who use it have a lower mortality rate, but is unable to distinguish whether it’s the case that healthy people choose to use Facebook, or that Facebook itself is helping make you healthier.
William Hobbs, who co-led the research, thinks the results have a lot to do with people using Facebook to strengthen their real life friendships.
“The more you have moderate interactions online, the more likely you are to be friends with your Facebook friends offline”
“Given the very strong association between real-world interactions and better health, it could be that the more you have moderate interactions online, the more likely you are to be friends with your Facebook friends offline as well, reinforcing the relationships,” he says.
“Most Facebook users engaged in moderate levels of online interactions. However, when numbers of online interactions were extreme, and when we didn’t see evidence of users being to connected to people offline, we saw associations with worse health.”
The research focused on people born between 1945 and 1989 and measured their Facebook activity over six months. Their public health records were then compared to those of non-users of the same age and gender for the following year.
Further information that could affect longevity such as marital status and level of education, were not determined for the non-users, and as such was not compared between users and non-users for more accurate results.
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