Good news for social media fans! According to new research, Facebook users tend to live longer. As long as they use it right.
Use Facebook For Much Longer
Researchers from University of California San Diego, Yale and Facebook studied 12 million people, which is a pretty good sample size. Using data from the California Health Department and Facebook, the researchers were able to study people’s social media use. All the data were aggregated and personal details were deleted.
They found that the average Facebook user is 12% less likely to die than those who don’t use social media. But the authors note that this is the crudest measurement. It does not account for possible socioeconomic factors.
“Happily, for almost all Facebook users, what we found is balanced use and a lower risk of mortality,” James Fowler, senior author.
So they drilled down into the data a little. They looked at relationship status, smartphone use (might indicate social status), how active the users were, how many Facebook friends they had, how many photos they posted and how often they sent messages. They controlled for relationships, age, gender, smartphone use and how long the person had used Facebook.
Putting the Social into Social Media
The results are not altogether groundbreaking. The people with the most friends live longer than those with the least. It has been long known that people with large social networks live longer than their lonelier contemporaries. But, do virtual friends count as much as the real versions? Not quite.
The people who had the best real-life social interactions (as measured by sharing photos) tend to live the longest. People who interact with their friends online, by posting on walls and sending messages did not enjoy a boost in longevity. People who used Facebook less than these groups tended to die earlier.
Mortality risk is lowest for those with high levels of offline social interaction and moderate levels of online social interaction.
So, should we all send out lots of friend requests? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way. The researchers found that the people who live the longest tend to be the ones that accept the most friend requests. Sending out friend requests does not seem to add a minute onto your life. Damn it.
“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,” James Fowler
The study identifies a correlation, not causation. So we don’t know if popular people live longer or healthier people attract more friends. But what we can say is that Social Media use is not going to harm you. Just make sure that you use it to connect with real friends. Have fun out there.
Live Long And Prosper, Online And Off
Many studies found that a large social network is vital for health. Social Media can be used to complement this network, but not replace it. Remember, it’s not all about the likes, share events with your friends. Interact in the real world. Build up your social network on and offline.
Are you a fan of Facebook? Have you liked Brain Sponge Blog’s Facebook page?