New Study Shows Social Media Use by Adults Has Psychological Benefits

It might be bad for kids but it can reduce instances of depression in adults.
Jessica Miley

A surprising new study suggests that using social media might be beneficial for some adults mental health. Popular opinion is that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram generally leave us with a feeling of dread and depression.

But researchers from Michigan State University have just published a paper that suggests otherwise.

The researchers say that using social media and the Internet regularly could improve mental health among adults.

They go as far as to state that the serious psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, could be avoided with regular Internet use.


Relationships are essential

Professor of media and information at Michigan State University, Keith Hampton, says social media helps maintain and form relationships which are an integral part of a living a full life. Where this study has differed from studies in the past is on its focus on adults.

Previously most work has been done analyzing the social media use by children.

"Taking a snapshot of the anxiety felt by young people today and concluding that a whole generation is at risk because of social media ignores more noteworthy social changes, such as the lingering effects of the Great Recession, the rise in single child families, older and more protective parents, more kids going to college and rising student debt," he said.

Communication and connection are key

Hampton analyzed data from more than 13,000 relationships from adult participants in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics - a long-running household survey - the world's longest-running household survey.

Data from the survey from 2015 and 2016 was used and had questions about the use of communication technologies and psychological distress.

The analysis revealed that 63 percent of the surveyed adults that used social media were less likely to experience serious psychological distress from one year to the next.

Hampton also found that having extended family members use the same social media platforms further reduced psychological distress including major depression or severe anxiety so long as their family member's mental health was not in decline.

Alerts keep us in the loop throughout the day

Hampton suggests that alerts on Facebook and Instagram might make us feel more connected to people.

"Today, we have these ongoing, little bits of information popping up on our cell phones and Facebook feeds, and that ongoing contact might matter for things like mental health," Hampton said.

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