It’s pretty well known that people who have lots of close friends and family in their lives enjoy better psychological well-being and overall health. But a new study has revealed that offline relationships, such as the ones people have on social networks, can also be beneficial to people’s health.
Since the late 1970s, medical studies have found that people with lots of friends enjoy longer lives. Furthermore, a nine-year long study showed that people with zero social and community ties were up to 2.8 times more likely to die prematurely, compared to their counterparts with extensive social connections.
However, a new study led by researchers William Hobbs and James Fowler from the University of California, San Diego – which looked at the link between people’s activity on the social network and their lifespans – found that people who are well-liked on Facebook may also be healthier.
More specifically, the researchers found that people who received a lot of friend requests tended to live longer. But there was little association between lifespan and the sending of friend requests.
People who posted lots of pictures were also found to live longer, as were individuals who sent lots of messages.
It should be noted, though, that the study only focused on one social network: Facebook and the research covered just one US state. Moreover, the study only looked at correlation, not causation.
Nevertheless, in a given year, the average Facebook user is about 12% less likely to die than someone who doesn’t use the site at all.
“Happily, for almost all Facebook users, what we found is balanced use and a lower risk of mortality,” said James Fowler.
“Social relationships seem to be as predictive of lifespan as smoking, and more predictive than obesity and physical inactivity. We’re adding to that conversation by showing that online relationships are associated with longevity, too,” he added.