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Using Facebook might help you live longer

Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye

A study suggests that being active on social media, like Facebook, could increase your longevity, but it only applies if your online social interactions serve to increase your real world social interactions.

Researchers studied 12 million Facebook accounts for six months, comparing activity of those still living with those who died. Behaviours like posting photos were associated with longevity, because it’s an indicator of real life experiences. Photos are often tagged, which is a strong predictor that the people in the photo have a real-life relationship. However, online only behaviours like sending messages, had a non-linear correlation.

The study also found that receiving friend requests was associated with longevity, but sending friend requests was not. Those who accepted the most friend requests on Facebook lived the longest.

Overall, using Facebook moderately was associated with the lowest mortality rate. Interacting online seems to be healthy when the activity is moderate and complements interactions offline. It is only on the extreme end, spending a lot of time online with little evidence of being connected to people otherwise, that we see a negative association.

The key finding in this study is that online social activity helps promote an offline social life, which is beneficial to health.