MAY 09, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Taking a Break From Social Media Improves Mental Health

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Nowadays, it seems like social media usage is a near ubiquitous part of our daily lives. In fact, the Pew Research Center estimates that nearly 70% of Americans use social media in some shape or form on a regular basis, particularly YouTube and Facebook. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat are far more common in adults 30 years old and younger.

The consistent rise in social media usage has led researchers to question what, if any, affects social media can have on a user's mental health. Some research, for example, suggests that social media can trigger the brain’s reward center, leading to potentially addictive behaviors that can affect depression and anxiety. 

A new research study adds evidence to this growing body of knowledge, highlighting that taking a break from social media can actually improve mental wellbeing, particularly for depression and anxiety. Findings from the study are described in a recent paper published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

The study included 154 adult participants up to 72 years old who claimed to use social media everyday for an average of about 8 hours a day. Participants were then randomly assigned to a “treatment” group and a control group. Participants in the “treatment” group were asked to stop using social media for one week, while the control group continued social media usage as normal. 

Prior to starting, baseline scores were collected regarding anxiety, depression, and overall well being. Screen recording tools were used to gauge whether participants adhered to the study requirements. Overall, people in the control group registered about 7 hours a week on average of social media usage, while participants in the “treatment” group registered 21 minutes a week.

Findings suggested that those who stopped using social media for a week experienced some short term improvement in their overall anxiety and depression experiences. 

The research team plans to build on these findings to study how social media use reduction impacts people with other physical or mental conditions, as well as study reduced social media use over a longer period of time. 

Sources: Science Daily; Pew Research Center; Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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