Five-day Facebook break decreases stress levels

Quitting Facebook may do more than protect your private data – it could also significantly reduce your stress levels.

New research from the Australian Catholic University and the University of Queensland, found a five-day Facebook break can reduce a person’s level of cortisol – a key hormone related to stress.

Stephanie Tobin from ACU’s School of Psychology joined study leaders Eric Vanman and Rosemary Baker from the University of Queensland to investigate the effects of a short break from Facebook on a person’s stress and well-being.

Dr Tobin said giving up Facebook for five days showed clear improvement in physiological stress.

Surprisingly, study participants also reported lower feelings of well-being after quitting the social media platform – with most volunteers quite happy to check back in once the test period ended.

"Participants who were not using Facebook probably missed being able to share content and react to their friends’ content online,” she said.

“This type of active Facebook use is associated with greater social connection and well-being.”

The mixed results could indicate that temporary rather than complete breaks from Facebook are best for overall health, Dr Tobin said.

The study involved two groups of active users of Facebook, with one group instructed to stay off Facebook for five days and the other group using Facebook as normal.

All 138 participants in the study provided saliva samples at the beginning and end to measure changes in cortisol levels. Each participant was also asked a series of questions regarding mood, loneliness, and life satisfaction.

“Our study shows that there are pros and cons to taking a break from Facebook, further research is needed to understand when and for whom a break might be beneficial,” Dr Tobin said.

The study, The Burden of Online Friends, has been published in the Journal of Social Psychology.


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