Results of a study that asked participants to take a week-long break from social media show positive effects on well-being, depression and anxiety.
According to the authors of a new study, asking individuals to stop using social media for a week could lead to substantial improvements in their well-being, depression and anxiety, and could be recommended as a way to help people manage their mental health in the future.
A team of researchers from the University of Bath (UK) assessed the mental health impacts of a one-week hiatus from social media. For some research participants, that meant freeing up around nine hours of their week that would otherwise have been spent browsing Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
Their results – published on Friday, May 6, 2022 in the American journal Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networks – suggest that just one week away from social media improves individuals’ overall level of well-being, as well as reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.
For the study, researchers randomly assigned 154 people between the ages of 18 and 72 who used social media daily to an intervention group, where they were asked to stop using all social media for a week, or a control group, where they could continue scrolling as usual. At the start of the study, baseline scores for anxiety, depression, and well-being were taken.
Participants reported spending an average of 8 hours per week on social media at the start of the study. A week later, participants who were asked to take the week-long break showed significant improvements in well-being, depression and anxiety compared to those who continued to use social media , suggesting a short-term benefit.
Participants asked to take a week-long break said they used social media for an average of 21 minutes, compared to an average of seven hours for those in the control group. Screen usage statistics were provided to verify that individuals had observed the break. Bath Department of Health senior researcher Dr Jeff Lambert explains: “Social media scrolling is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking, from the moment we wake up to the moment we close. eyes at night.
“We know that the use of social media is huge and there are growing concerns about its effects on mental health. Therefore, with this study, we wanted to see if simply asking people to take a week off could have beneficial effects on mental health.
“Many of our participants reported positive effects of being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even a small break can have an impact.
“Of course social media is a part of life and for many people it is an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you spend hours each week scrolling and feel it’s having a negative impact on you, it might be worth cutting back on your usage to see if that helps.
The researchers now aim to expand their research to find out if a brief break could benefit different demographic groups (for example, young people or people with physical and mental health problems). The team also wants to follow people for more than a week to determine if the benefits persist. If so, they believe it will be part of the treatment options used to help manage mental health in the future.
Over the past 15 years, social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, underscored by the huge growth seen by major platforms. In the UK, the number of adults using social media has increased from 45% in 2011 to 71% in 2021. Among 16-44 year olds, up to 97% of us use social media and scroll is the most frequent online activity we perform.
Feeling “weak” and losing pleasure are hallmarks of depression, while anxiety is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry. Well-being refers to an individual’s level of positive affect, life satisfaction, and sense of purpose. According to the Mind, one in six of us experiences a common mental health issue like anxiety and depression in any given week.
Reference: “Taking a One-Week Break From Social Media Improves Well-Being, Depression, and Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial” by Jeffrey Lambert, George Barnstable, Eleanor Minter, Jemima Cooper, and Desmond McEwan, May 10, 2022 , Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networks.