A social media break could significantly improve overall well-being and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to a new study from the University of Bath.
The researchers examined the mental health effects of stepping away from social media for one week. For some participants, the break freed up about nine hours that they would have normally spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.
“Social media (SM) has revolutionized how we communicate with each other, allowing users to interact with friends and family and meet others based on shared interests by creating virtual public profiles,” wrote the study authors. “In the United Kingdom, the number of adults using SM has increased from 45 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2021.”
The researchers noted that previous studies have found negative relationships between social media use and various mental health indices. For example, a study of US adults showed that participants who used social media the most frequently had much greater odds of suffering from depression.
To investigate the benefits of a social media break, the researchers focused on people between the ages of 18 and 72 who used social media every day. The individuals were randomly assigned to either stop using social media platforms altogether for seven days or to continue their social media engagement as usual.
At the beginning of the study, the participants had reported spending an average of eight hours per week on social media. Those who took a break showed significant improvements in well-being, depression, and anxiety.
“Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night,” said lead researcher Dr. Jeff Lambert.
“We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits.”
“Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.”
“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps.”
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer
Source: Social media break can significantly improve mental health • Earth.com
By: Zia Sherrell
Social media has associations with depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, particularly among heavy users. A 2015 Common Sense survey found that teenagers may spend as much as 9 hours of each day online. Many of these individuals are themselves concerned that they spend too much time browsing social networks. This wave of concern suggests that social media could affect the mental health of its users.
The researchers behind a 2017 Canadian study confirmed this finding. They noted that students who use social media for more than 2 hours daily are considerably more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor than occasional users. A 2019 studyTrusted Source tied social media use to disrupted and delayed sleep. Regular, high quality sleep is essential for well-being, and evidence shows that sleeping problems contribute to adverse mental health effects, such as depression and memory loss.
Aside from the adverse effects on sleep, social media may trigger mental health struggles by exposing individuals to cyberbullying. In a 2020 survey of more than 6,000 individuals aged 10–18 years, researchers found that about half of them had experienced cyberbullying. One of the downsides of social media platforms is that they give individuals the opportunity to start or spread harmful rumors and use abusive words that can leave people with lasting emotional scars.
Although social media may not play a role in each of these incidences, the time frame correlates with the growing use of these platforms. A 2021 study confirms this effect. The researchers reported that while social media use had a minimal impact on boys’ risk of suicide, girls who used social media for at least 2 hours each day from the age of 13 years had a higher clinical risk of suicide as adults. Furthermore, findings from a population-based study show a decline in mental health in the U.S., with a 37% increase in the likelihood of major depressive episodes among adolescents.
A 2019 studyTrusted Source suggested that teenagers who use social media for more than 3 hours daily are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and antisocial behavior.
- Attenuating the Negative Impact of Unemployment: The Interactive Effects of Perceived Emotional Intelligence and Well-Being on Suicide Risk”. PLOS ONE. 11 (9): e0163656.
- The World Mental Health Survey Initiative”. Harvard Medical School. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- Use of mental health services for anxiety, mood, and substance disorders in 17 countries in the WHO world mental health surveys”.
- Recognizing that words have the power to harm, we commit to using more just language to describe places”. Brookings. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
- Transforming the Nation’s Health: next steps in mental health promotion”. American Journal of Public Health. 100 (12): 2343–6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.192138. PMC 2978180. PMID 20966366.
- “The Benefits of Yoga”. American Osteopathic Association. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
- Your Staff’s Mental Health Is a Workplace Safety Issue – Humanengineers”. Humanengineers. 2017-06-2
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