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Social media can improve the mental health of adults

Social media researchers mostly focused on how it affects young people and students, and many studies have revealed adverse effects. But a new study argues that most of the negatively associated with the use of social media can be attributed to life stages rather than technology.

Moreover, the Michigan State University study suggests that regular use of social media and the Internet can improve mental health among adults and help reduce the risk of serious mental distress such as depression and anxiety.

Dr. Keith Hampton, a media and information professor at Michigan State University, believes that communication technologies and social media platforms facilitate relationship maintenance and access to health information.

Hampton believes that there has been a negative impression of social media because adults were not the focus of research on that subject.

"Recording the anxiety that young people feel today and the conclusion that the entire generation is threatened by social media ignores major social changes such as the long-term effects of the Great Recession, the rise of a single-parent family, older and more protective parents, more children attending colleges and an increasing student debt, "he said.

In a new study, Hampton was questioning the more mature populations, analyzing data from more than 13,000 adults in panel-study on income dynamics, the longest survey of households in the world.

He used data for 2015 and 2016, which included a number of questions about the use of communication technologies and psychological difficulties. Hampton has found social media users 63 percent less likely to experience severe psychological pain from year to year, including severe depression or severe anxiety.

Moreover, members of the extended family on social media further reduced psychological stress, as long as the mental health of the family member was not declining. The study appears in Journal of Computer Mediation and Communication.

Investigators believe research findings question the idea that social media, mobile technology and the Internet represent a mental health crisis in the United States.

Other key findings include:

  • someone who uses the social networking site has 1.63 times the likelihood of escaping serious psychological difficulties;
  • to what extent the communication technology affects psychological stress depending on the type and amount of technology people and members of their extended families use;
  • mental health changes affect family psychological difficulties experienced by other families, but only if both family members are linked to a social networking site.

"Today we have this current, small information that appears on our mobile phones and Facebook feeds, and that constant contact can be important for things like mental health," Hampton said.

Source: University of Michigan State

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