A study published in Royal Society Open Science estimates the association between Facebook adoption and well-being in 72 countries.
Prof Peter Etchells, Professor of Psychology and Science Communication, Bath Spa University, said:
“This is a fascinating study that attempts to link Facebook uptake with measures of mental wellbeing in a broad-strokes manner, using data from over 70 countries. Contrary to popular sentiment, the researchers didn’t find a negative association between the two; instead, it was generally the case that there were positive associations between country-level Facebook uptake and mental wellbeing. To my mind, the value in this study lies in proof of principle – it demonstrates that it’s possible to leverage industry data to address meaningful questions about how digital technology interacts with our mental health.
“There are some important caveats here though, which are rightly explained by the authors themselves. This is a descriptive study, and as such cannot tell us anything about causation – that is, we don’t know how, if, or to what extent, changes in Facebook adoption drive changes in mental wellbeing. Wellbeing is a complex phenomenon, and even in the context of social media use, we need to be careful drawing any firm conclusions by looking at how people use a single platform such as Facebook. As the authors note though, if we truly want to understand the effects that social media can have on us, we need to develop robust and transparent methods for collaborating with digital technology companies. This study provides an inkling into the kind of insights we might be able to glean if the technology industry opened its doors to a much broader range of researchers.”
‘Estimating the association between Facebook adoption and well-being in 72 countries’ by Matti Vuorre and Andrew K. Przybylski was published in Royal Society Open Science at 00:01 UK time on Wednesday 9 August 2023.
Prof Peter Etchells: “I am the author of the upcoming book Unlocked: The Real Science of Screen Time (and how to spend it better), due to be published in March 2024.”