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Social media break improves mental health: Study

by Vaishali Sharma

According to the authors of a recent study, asking people to cease using social media for one week might result in significant changes in their wellbeing, sadness, and anxiety and could be advised as a technique to assist people manage their mental health in the future.

A team of researchers from the University of Bath (UK) investigated the mental health impacts of a week-long social media hiatus. For some research participants, this meant saving about nine hours per week that they would have otherwise spent browsing through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

Their findings, published today (Friday, May 6, 2022) in the US journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, reveal that only one week away from social media enhanced people’s general well-being and decreased symptoms of despair and anxiety.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 154 people aged 18 to 72 who used social media every day to one of two groups: intervention (they were asked to cease using all social media for one week) or control (they may continue browsing as usual). Baseline ratings for anxiety, depression, and well-being were obtained at the start of the research.

At the outset of the study, participants reported spending an average of 8 hours per week on social media. One week later, individuals who were instructed to take a one-week vacation showed significantly higher levels of happiness, despair, and anxiety than those who continued to use social media, indicating a short-term advantage.

Participants asked to take a one-week break reported using social media for an average of 21 minutes compared to an average of seven hours for those in the control group. Screen usage stats were provided to check that individuals had adhered to the break.

Lead researcher from Bath’s Department for Health, Dr Jeff Lambert explains: “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.

“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 with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.

“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. 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.”

Source: University of Bath

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