Study: Ignoring social media for just 15 minutes a day can improve your health

Researchers find significant improvement in general health, immune function, loneliness and depression

Feeling stressed or just not well overall? Maybe you should put down your phone.

A new study, from Swansea University, found reducing your social media use by just 15 minutes a day can not only improve your general health and immune function, but also can improve symptoms of depression and loneliness.

“These data demonstrate that, when people reduce their social media use, their lives can improve in many ways—including benefits for their physical health and psychological well-being,” professor Phil Reed from Swansea University’s School of Psychology, who conducted the study, said in a press release.

For three months, Reed, Tegan Fowkes and Mariam Khela examined the effects on physical health and psychological functioning when people reduce their social media usage by 15 minutes a day.

The 50 study participants — ages 20-25 — were randomly divided into three groups: One was asked to change nothing about their habits (no change); one was asked to reduce usage by 15 minutes a day (reduce); and the third was asked to reduce use by 15 minutes daily and substitute another activity during that time (reduce+activity). They also answered a monthly questionnaire about their health and psychological function, along with weekly reports on how much they used social media.

The researchers found those in the reduce group actually cut out 40 minutes of social media scrolling each day. The no change group actually added 10 minutes of phone use, while the group specifically asked to replace scrolling with another activity added a whopping 25 minutes to their average use.

“There was a significant improvement in the Reduce group in general health, immune function, loneliness, and depression compared to the other groups,” the researchers wrote.

Reed added: “That the group asked to reduce their usage and do something different did not show these benefits suggests that campaigns to make people healthier could avoid telling people how to use their time. They can resent it. Instead, give them the facts, and let them deal with how they make the reduction, rather than telling them to do something more useful — it may not be effective.”

The study was published in February in the Journal of Technology in Behavior Science. You can read it here.