Facebook users live 12% longer (says Facebook)

Ok, you have to consider the source, but Facebook is now reporting that using Facebook can extend your life.

Follow the logic here: People with lots of friends tend to live longer. BTW, Facebook calls these “strong social networks offline.” Social relationships, they say, are as predictive as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. So, does having more friends online do the same?

That was the question Facebook and researchers from Yale and UC San Diego sought to answer.

“We find that people who use Facebook live longer than people who don’t. In a given year, the average Facebook user is about 12% less likely to die than someone who doesn’t use the site.” — Facebook Research

There is a significant qualifier on the research. Maybe the kind of people that use Facebook are different than others. Maybe they already have more friends or bigger social circles. Maybe they have access to technology that others outside the study don’t.

Digging deeper, Facebook says the users it analyzed appear to have “high levels of offline social integration.” Meaning, I guess, that there’s lot of pictures of them with friends in real life. Those with lots of real people friends who regularly engage on Facebook (not just stalk people) seem to have the greatest longevity.

Wondering if this goes against the whole “numbers of friends on Facebook doesn’t matter” trend? Maybe the more you have, the longer you live?

I’m not putting down the research. You can certainly make a case that people who are active and interact with other people regularly are much less likely to be depressed. We know that depression and isolation can lead to serious medical conditions.

IMAGE SOURCE: Facebook Research
Having more Facebook friends, especially being the recipient of those friend requests, is linked to a lower mortality risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), drug overdose, and suicide, causes of death known to be associated with social isolation. Most forms of cancer are not associated with social behavior offline, and the same appears to be true online. — Facebook Research

A Warning: It’s not Facebook alone that makes the difference

There’s also a warning here in the research. People who use Facebook heavily, but don’t participate with others in real life actually decrease life expectancy. The research would suggest moderate levels of online use, which complement your real social interactions away from FB.

“While we show that Facebook use and health are correlated, we cannot prove the relationship is causal. It is possible, for example, that healthy people are more likely to attract others to befriend them.” Facebook Research
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