Facebook use might help live longer, says a study published earlier this week.
The study compared 12 million Facebook profiles of users aged 27 to 71 against vital records from the California Department of Public Health. By utilizing longitudinal statistical models, researchers attempted to determine whether use of the social media website could be linked to a longer life. The team monitored the accounts for half-a-year and compared activity of those still living with those who died.
Specifically, researchers found people who received a lot of friend requests tended to live longer, as did those who posted photos online and sent messages. The research suggests correlation but could not point to causation.
The results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers who worked out of the University of California, San Diego, Yale, Harvard and elsewhere.
"We cannot say that spurring users to post more photos on Facebook will increase user longevity," the authors wrote in the study.
Previous studies have suggested that people with strong social networks, that is, real, offline ones, live longer. The new study hints that this could be true for online social networks, too, but it might be because a strong online social network is evidence of a strong offline one.
"Mortality risk is lowest for those with high levels of offline social interaction and moderate levels of online social interaction," researchers note.
Facebook was involved in the study, but the authors claim that the company had no effect on the study. William Hobbs, the study's lead author, interned for the company in 2013. Another author, Moira Burke, is a research scientist for Facebook.
The study, though, provides a bulwark against the common, often unsupported notion that social media use is innately dangerous or unhealthy.
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