Social Media’s Negative Impact On Health Is Real

Social media is harder and harder to stay away from these days. Many of us use the sites for work, to keep up with family and friends, and as a source of news and other information. Facebook, Instagram and the rest are all increasingly embedded into our daily lives.

But many studies have now shown that this dependence on social media is having a very real, and quite serious, effects on health. And researchers at the University of Surrey just found that the negative health effects of social media tend to impact women harder than men.  The study examined 165 Facebook users and looked at four factors: perceived physical health, self-esteem levels, life satisfaction, and the frequency that they compared themselves to others on the site.

The researchers discovered that among study participants, users who were more likely to compare themselves to their Facebook connections experienced physical ailments more often. These ailments range from muscle tension to insomnia to weight changes. For unknown reasons, women were more likely to experience these physical symptoms. Dr. Bridget Dibb, a senior lecturer in health psychology at the University of Surrey and one of the researchers involved in the study, summed up this finding. “Comparing ourselves to others is not a new concept; however, with the rise of social media it is becoming a part of our everyday lives,” she said.

Several other studies have shown that the more “screen time” a person spends, whether on their phone or on a computer, the more likely they are to experience increased symptoms of depression along with suicide-related behaviors and thoughts in extreme cases.

There are some ways you can reduce your screen time and social media use without missing it too much. You can limit your non-work screen time; eat your meals without a screen; avoid movies, TV, and social media in bed; pick up a new hobby to keep you occupied; and set a timer when you do log in to Facebook. Be sure to stick to the time you’ve set.

Image credit: Lily Dale / Contributor