April 18, 2024

Reducing social media use can help improve health and well-being – study

Reducing social media use by 15 minutes a day may have a very beneficial effect on a person’s health, a new study published on February 8 found.

The peer-reviewed open access studypublished in Journal of Technology in Behavioral Scienceaddress a gap in academic research on the potential benefits of reducing social media use.

Other research has proven that social media use can lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression along with physical problems such as poor sleep quality and reduced physical activity.

Testing the positive impact of reducing social media use

The researchers recruited 50 participants from undergraduate programs across 6 different universities located in the UK. All participants were between 18 and 30 years of age.

The participants were divided into three groups. 16 participants did not change their social media use, 17 participants were asked to reduce their activity, and the final group of 17 participants were asked to reduce their social media activity and replace it with another activity such as exercise or reading.

A woman with a smartphone is seen in front of social media logos displayed in this illustration taken May 25, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

All participants were then asked to complete an assessment that measured their social media use, health, sleep quality, and feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.

Results of the study

Participants who reduced their social media use without replacing it with another activity reported a greater improvement in their health than the group who did not change their social media activity. However, the reduction-only group did not report better mental health.

The research team theorized that the change above occurred because the reduction-only group was breaking out of a cycle of addiction.

“These data show that when people reduce their social media use, their lives can improve in many ways – including benefits to their physical health and psychological well-being,” Phil Reed, study author and professor of psychology at Swansea University, told PsyPost.

“It remains to be seen whether the relationship between social media use and health factors is direct, or whether it is mediated by changes in well-being variables, such as depression, or other factors, such as increased physical activity.”

“As the group asked to reduce their use and do something different these benefits did not show that campaigns to make people healthier could avoid telling people how to use their time,” continued Reed. “They can resent it. Instead, give them the facts, and let them deal with how they reduce, rather than telling them to do something more useful – it might not be effective.”

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