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Is Social Network Activity Associated with Lower Mortality? PDF Stampa E-mail
Mercoledì 04 Gennaio 2017 05:10

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD reviewing Hobbs WR et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 Nov 15.

Facebook users with more friends and more requests to connect lived longer.

Many studies have shown that people who are more socially active have better health outcomes, including longer lifespans. Is the same true of people who are socially active in online communities? Or, conversely, might the time people spend on online social networks lessen their face-to-face social activity, negatively affecting their health? To find out, a multi-institutional team matched 12 million Facebook users with nonusers in the same geographical area and linked them to mortality registry data, with 2 years of follow-up.

After controlling for age, sex, marital status, a proxy for race/ethnicity, and education level, Facebook users had significantly lower mortality from infections, diabetes, mental illness, dementia, ischemic heart disease, stroke, other cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and homicide. Mortality associated with unintentional injuries, drug overdoses, and suicides did not differ significantly between Facebook users and nonusers. The researchers then analyzed 6 months of online activity by the Facebook users. Having more friends on Facebook, receiving more requests to connect as friends, and posting photos were associated with lower mortality. However, initiating requests for friends was not associated with lower mortality.



This study is consistent with the hypothesis that people who are more active in social networks, similar to people who have more face-to-face interactions, have longer, healthier lives. These observed correlations clearly do not prove causality. However, this study is reassuring in that it suggests that being active on online social networks does not result in adverse health effects.