Some Facebook users perceive worsening physical health

Facebook use linked to perceptions of worsening physical health, new research from the University of Surrey, reports.

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By investigating a complex relation between using Facebook and physical health, a new study found that Facebook use is linked to worsening physical health.

In the study conducted by the University of Surrey, scientists surveyed 165 participants to identify levels of comparison with others on the social networking site, self-esteem rates, perceived physical health and life satisfaction.

Participants who compared themselves with others on Facebook had more prominent attention to physical illnesses, for example, sleep issues, weight change, and muscle tension. It is believed that those who compare with others on Facebook may perceive more physical symptoms but equally, those who perceive more symptoms may compare more with others on Facebook. Social comparison is a process where comparisons are made to others in order to evaluate our lives and are more likely to occur when we feel uncertain about our situation.

Scientists also found that female participants and those experiencing anxiety or depression also perceived more symptoms. On the other hand, participants who were happy with their lifestyle were associated with fewer physical symptoms.

According to scientists, the increased use of the social networking site may be associated with more opportunities to compare ourselves unfavorably to others who we perceive to be ‘better off’ than ourselves both in lifestyle and in health.

Dr. Bridget Dibb, Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology at the University of Surrey, said: “Comparing ourselves to others is not a new concept; however, with the rise of social media it is becoming a part of our everyday lives.

“An entity like Facebook, with 2.27 billion active monthly users, has never existed before. The long term effect it has on individuals is unknown, but it is clear that comparison with others is associated with perceptions of ill-health. Users need to be aware of how they feel when they use sites like Facebook and recognize the dangers of comparisons in this context.”

The study is published in the journal Heliyon.