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Facebook use associated with longer life, according to study

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Facebook has allowed people to expand their social lives online, but it looks like the social network might have positive impacts on real life mortality.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a correlation between those who use Facebook and a longer life span. The study, conducted by University of California, San Diego researchers, looked at 12 million social media profiles in California to "assess whether social media use is associated with longer life."

While previous studies have noted people with strong social networks tend to live longer, this study notes that a similar association exists between longer life and those who have an active social presence online.

"Facebook users who accept more friendships have a lower risk of mortality, but there is no relationship for those who initiate more friendships," according to the study. So for Facebook users who receive a lot of friend requests have a lower mortality risk, not necessarily those who make a lot of friend requests.

Another interesting note from the study looks at posting photos and statuses vs. being tagged in photos. Being tagged in photos "usually indicate that the recipient is in the photo and therefore engaging in a real-world social activity." But merely just posting lots of photos or statuses doesn't have quite the same effect.

The study also looked "whether online social activities more strongly predict mortality due to causes that are more likely to be related to social factors," like if there was an association between the number of friendships one has online with health conditions like cardiovascular disease or drug overdose.

"Cardiovascular disease is more strongly related to social factors than cancer, and associations between cardiovascular disease and social isolation are stronger in offline interactions than in online ones." The study also mentioned that online social interactions predict better health for causes of death "related to mental illness and substance abuse, where we expect the largest social support efforts."

Previous research on the social network's impact on health noted a link between Facebook use and mental health in younger people: Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine noted an association between social media use by young adults and depression, according to a press release from the school. "More time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed."

The University of Pittsburgh's research, however, didn't determine that Facebook use caused depression among young adults, just that there was an association. "It may be that people who already are depressed are turning to social media to fill a void," said Liu yi Lin, lead author of the research.

The findings from the University of California, San Diego study don't necessarily suggest that if you go to Facebook and get tagged in more photos or receive more friend requests you'll suddenly live longer. Rather, the study shows that just like having an active social life in real life has health benefits, keeping an active digital social life can positively effect health as well.

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healthfacebooktechnologysocial mediamental healthheart diseasecancerdepressionsociety