Facebook Bad For Your Mental Health, Study Suggests

Dennis Faas's picture

People who regularly use social networking site Facebook are prone to negative feelings, a new study finds. But there's some question over the cause and effect involved.

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied 82 Facebook users with an average age of 19 to 20.

The researchers started by asking the subjects a series of questions to check their levels of self-esteem and / or depression. They then sent the subjects a text message five times each day over a two-week period. (Source: plosone.org)

The message linked to a survey that asked the subjects whether they felt positive or negative, how worried they felt, how lonely they felt, how much they had used Facebook in recent days, and how much time they had spent in real-world interactions with other people since the last survey.

At the end of the two weeks, the researchers repeated these questions.

Recent Facebook Users Feel Worse

According to the researchers, whenever people had recently used Facebook they were statistically more likely to feel negative. They also found the more the person had used Facebook during the two weeks, the more their overall sense of wellbeing declined during the study.

Although the researchers explored whether the process might work in reverse -- meaning that people who were already feeling worried or lonely might be more likely to use Facebook -- the results were inconclusive.

The researchers also noted that having real-world interactions with other people was more likely to increase positive feelings.

Findings May Not Apply To Everyone

The study did have some limitations, however. It's worth keeping in mind that it involved less than 100 people of just one age group. It's not clear if older Facebook users feel like their younger counterparts.

It's also unclear if Facebook actually makes people feel bad. It could be that people who are less likely to engage with others in real-world scenarios are more likely to turn to social networking for their social activity -- a poor replacement for face-to-face communication.

It's also possible that people with mental illness gravitate towards Facebook but that Facebook does not make people have negative feelings. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

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