Social media use linked to poor physical health

Social media use has been linked to biological and psychological indicators associated with poor physical health in college students, according to findings from a new study by a University at Buffalo researcher.

Research participants who excessively used social media had higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker of chronic inflammation that predicts serious diseases, such as diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease. cardiovascular illnesses. In addition to elevated CRP levels, the results suggest that increased social media use was also linked to somatic symptoms, such as headaches, chest and back pain, and more frequent home visits. doctors and health centers for the treatment of diseases.

“Social media use has become an integral part of everyday life for many young adults,” said David Lee, PhD, the paper’s first author and assistant professor of communication at UB College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s critical that we understand how engagement on these platforms contributes to physical health.”

The results appear in the journal Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networks.

For decades, researchers have devoted their attention to how social media engagement relates to users’ mental health, but its effects on physical health have not been thoroughly studied. Recent surveys indicate that social media use is particularly high among people in their late teens and early twenties, a population that spends around six hours a day texting, online or using social media. And while a few studies have found links between social media use and physical health, much of this research has relied on self-report or the effects of use with a single platform.

“Our goal was to extend previous work by examining how social media use across multiple platforms is associated with physical health outcomes measured by biological, behavioral, and self-report measures,” Lee said. an expert in health outcomes related to social interactions.

The researchers recruited a diverse sample of 251 undergraduate students aged 18 to 24 for the study. Finger blood samples were taken, and participants also completed physical health and social media use questionnaires on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, the most popular platforms at the time of data collection. in 2017. These responses were cross-checked with another survey that measured validity by determining how seriously participants took their role in the study.

“We were able to correlate the amount of social media use with these indicators of physical health,” Lee said. “The more participants used social media, the more somatic symptoms and doctor visits they reported. They also showed higher levels of chronic inflammation.”

Lee says this study is just the beginning of understanding the relationship between social media and physical health.

“By examining a biomarker in the blood, we were able to find a relatively more objective association between social media use and physical health, but this correlational finding cannot rule out the possibility that poor health may have an impact on physical health. social media use,” Lee said.

Lee says the aphorism might be true with social media use and physical health: the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. “In our previous research, we found that people with high self-esteem benefited from using social media, but people with low self-esteem did not. So the effect may be more nuanced.”

“There’s still work to be done,” Lee said. “But right now, I wanted to get the message across that social media use can be linked to important physical health outcomes.”

Lee’s research team for the current study included colleagues from Ohio State University: Tao Jiang, a graduate student; Jennifer Crocker, PhD, professor of social psychology; and Baldwin Way, PhD, associate professor of psychology.

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Material provided by University at Buffalo. Original written by Bert Gambini. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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