According to new research, taking a break for a week from social media improvises an individual’s overall level of well-being, and reduces symptoms which helps people manage their mental health. Findings of the research were published in the journal ‘Cyberpsychology Behaviour and Social Networking’. The study was carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Bath. They studied the mental health effects of a week-long social media break.
For some participants in the study, this meant over nine free hours of their week which would have been otherwise spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
The researchers randomly allocated 154 individuals aged 18 to 72 who used social media every day into either an intervention group, where they were asked to stop using all social media for one week or a control group, where they could continue scrolling as normal. Baseline scores for anxiety, depression and well-being were taken at the beginning of the study.
Participants reported spending an average of 8 hours per week on social media at the start of the study. One week later, the participants who were asked to take the one-week break had significant improvements in wellbeing, depression, and anxiety than those who continued to use social media, suggesting a short-term benefit.
Participants asked to take a one-week break reported using social media for an average of 21 minutes compared to an average of seven hours for those in the control group. Screen usage stats were provided to check that individuals had adhered to the break. Lead researcher from Bath's Department for Health, Dr. Jeff Lambert explained, “Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night. 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.”
He added, “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. Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it's an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps.”
In the UK, the number of adults using social media increased from 45 per cent in 2011 to 71 per cent in 2021.