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Facebook may lead to perceived negative health outcomes

By Tauren Dyson
Facebook may lead to perceived negative health outcomes
Social comparison is when a person evaluates their life by contrasting it to someone else's, and researchers say social media users should be aware of it to prevent its affects on their mental health. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- New research links Facebook to the perception of poor health among its users.

People on Facebook thought they had more symptoms of physical ailments like sleep problems and weight change after comparing themselves to other users, a study published Tuesday in Heliyon reported.

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"Comparing ourselves to others is not a new concept," Bridget Dibb, a senior lecturer in health psychology at the University of Surrey, said in a press release. "However, with the rise of social media it is becoming a part of our everyday lives."

The researchers evaluated what study participants believed about their own self-esteem, physical health and life satisfaction compared to other Facebook users.

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"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," Dibb said.

Social comparison is when a person evaluates their life by contrasting it to someone else's.

Female users and people who suffer from anxiety and depression had even stronger perceptions of physical symptoms of ailments. Researchers report that the more people use Facebook, the more opportunities they have to view themselves unfavorably to others -- particularly in areas related to health and lifestyle.

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Some science points to real negative health outcomes associated with the social media platform. A recent study suggested Facebook's top users are at greater risk for depression.

The belief is that people develop mental illness after using Facebook, among other social media, to fill gaps in their own lives.

"Users need to be aware of how they feel when they use sites like Facebook and recognize the dangers of comparisons in this context," Dibb said.

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