HOW WE LIVE

Why you should take that social media break

Wellbeing refers to an individual’s level of positive affect, life satisfaction and sense of purpose.

In Summary

•Feeling ‘low’ and losing pleasure are core characteristics of depression, whereas anxiety is characterised by excessive and out of control worry.

•One in six of us experience a common mental health problem like anxiety and depression in any given week.

The digital world comes with many pros and cons. Over the past 15 years, social media has revolutionized how we communicate and live.

However, without a good balance, it can easily lead to depression, anxiety, cyberbullying, unrealistic expectations and even general addiction. 

Researchers from the University of Bath have reported that taking just one week off social media improves individuals' overall level of well-being as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

"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...”

Using this method would be recommended as a way to help people manage their mental health say the authors of the new study which was published US journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.

The study, carried out by a team of researchers in UK, studied the mental health effects of a week-long social media break.

For some participants in the study, this meant freeing up around nine hours of their week which would otherwise have been spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

They randomly allocated 154 individuals aged 18 to 72 who used social media every day into either an intervention group, where they were asked to stop using all social media for one week or a control group, where they could continue scrolling as normal.

At the beginning of the study, baseline scores for anxiety, depression and wellbeing were taken.

Participants reported spending an average of 8 hours per week on social media at the start of the study.

One week later, the participants who were asked to take the one week break had significant improvements in wellbeing, depression, and anxiety than those who continued to use social media, suggesting a short-term benefit.

“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," the Lead researcher from Bath’s Department for Health, Dr Jeff Lambertsaid.

“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people. 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.”

The team plans to follow people up for longer than one week, to see if the benefits last over time. If so, in the future, they speculate that this could form part of the suite of clinical options used to help manage mental health.

Feeling ‘low’ and losing pleasure are core characteristics of depression, whereas anxiety is characterised by excessive and out of control worry.

Wellbeing refers to an individual’s level of positive affect, life satisfaction and sense of purpose.

According to the Mind, one in six of us experience a common mental health problem like anxiety and depression in any given week.

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