Researchers at Swansea University found that reducing social media use by just 15 minutes a day can have a significant positive impact on general health, immune function, loneliness and depression.
The team tested 50 participants between the ages of 20 and 25. The participants were asked to reduce their social media usage by 15 minutes per day for three months.
Their health and psychological functioning were monitored and compared to two control groups, one of which was not asked to reduce their usage and the other of which was asked to do something other than social media during those 15 minutes.
The group that reduced their social media use saw an average 15% improvement in immune function, including fewer colds, flu, warts and verrucae, a 50% improvement in sleep quality, and 30% fewer depressive symptoms.
These benefits were significantly greater than those experienced by the other two groups.
Interestingly, the team found the group that was asked to do something other than social media increased their usage by around 25 minutes a day.
The group asked to reduce their usage actually reduced it by about 40 minutes a day, instead of the requested 15 minutes.
Previous studies have suggested a correlation between reduced social media usage and improvements in psychological well-being.
But this new study is important in that it shows an experimentally-controlled link, suggesting a causal link between social media reduction and improved physical health.
The team says these data demonstrate that, when people reduce their social media use, their lives can improve in many ways—including benefits for their physical health and psychological well-being.
The study suggests that campaigns to promote healthier behavior should focus on providing information and allowing people to choose how they make the reduction, rather than telling them what to do.
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The study was published in the Journal of Technology in Behavior Science and conducted by Professor Phil Reed et al.
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