Avid Facebook use linked with high cortisol levels

According to researchers, excessive use of Facebook and other social media can significantly boost the amount of stress hormone in the body, especially in those with high numbers of friends on the system.

A team from Montreal University looked into the relationship between the use of the social media and the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream.

They designed a questionnaire which surveyed how frequently they made use of the site, their self-promoting behaviour, and the amount of support that they gave to their friends on Facebook.

They gave this survey to 88 adolescents, and took a cortisol sample with each, in order to check the answers against the level of the stress hormone in each participant.

Four samples were taken a day for three days, to give an in-depth picture of the adolescent’s stress hormone level.

“While other important external factors are also responsible, we estimated that the isolated effect of Facebook on cortisol was around eight per cent,” said leader of the study, Professor Sonia Lupien.

“We were able to show that beyond 300 Facebook friends, adolescents showed higher cortisol levels. We can therefore imagine that those who have 1,000 or 2,000 friends on Facebook may be subject to even greater stress.”

This shows that the ‘always on’ way of life which stresses out workers who are always connected by their email and their phones to their work, is not a factor unique to adults. The pressure of connectivity can also affect young people through social media.

It is important for all people to get their ‘off’ time, and disconnect from everything which stresses them out. In the case of young adults, it is possible that having time away from their phones and their computers could help to improve mental health.

The findings were published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

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