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Facebook might actually benefit mental health, new study suggests

A new scientific study is challenging the narrative around using social media, after finding it may benefit mental health.

Researchers from the University of Oxford have found there is no evidence to suggest using Facebook is detrimental to well being.

It follows analysis of data from nearly a million people across 72 countries over 12 years, the largest study of its kind, to understand more about the impact of Facebook on wellbeing.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, who co-led the research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, said: “We examined the best available data carefully, and found they did not support the idea that Facebook membership is related to harm. Quite the opposite.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo/File Photo

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“In fact, our analysis indicates Facebook is possibly related to positive well-being.”

The research looked at Facebook data from 2008 to 2019, going back to when the platform was in its early stages.

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The results showed the association between using Facebook and wellbeing was slightly more positive for males as well as for younger people.

Writing in the research paper, the authors said: “Although reports of negative psychological outcomes associated with social media are common in academic and popular writing, evidence for harms is, on balance, more speculative than conclusive.”

Commenting on the study, Peter Etchells, professor of psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, said: “To my mind, the value in this study lies in proof of principle. It demonstrates that it’s possible to leverage industry data to address meaningful questions about how digital technology interacts with our mental health.”

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But he added there were some caveats associated with the findings, which the study authors have addressed.

He said: “This is a descriptive study, and as such cannot tell us anything about causation. That is, we don’t know how, if, or to what extent, changes in Facebook adoption drive changes in mental wellbeing.

“Wellbeing is a complex phenomenon, and even in the context of social media use, we need to be careful drawing any firm conclusions by looking at how people use a single platform such as Facebook.”

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