Researchers at the University of Bath studied the effects of a week-long social media break on adults aged from 18 to 72.
For the small-scale study, participants were asked to stop using social media for one week or continue scrolling as normal.
For some participants, this meant an additional nine hours of free time a week which would otherwise have been spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
The analysis, published in the Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking journal, found that the wellbeing of those who took a one-week break from social media climbed from an average of 46 to 55.93 on The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale.
Levels of depression in this group dropped from 7.46 to 4.84, while anxiety fell from 6.92 to 5.94 on the scale.
Lead researcher from Bath’s Department for Health, Dr Jeff Lambert, said that scrolling social media is “so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking”.
“We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits,” Lambert said.
“Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.”
The number of UK adults using social media has increased from 45 per cent in 2011 to 71 per cent in 2021 and has hit 97 per cent in people aged 16 to 44, the study said.
“Scrolling” through content is the most common activity that social media users perform.
The research supports previous studies in the US and the UK which have linked social media to increased levels of depression and anxiety.
Researchers said they want to build on the study to see whether taking short breaks from social media can help different populations, such as younger people or those with diagnosed mental health conditions.
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