A new study found having over 300 'friends' on Facebook causes stress in teenagers. But there's a good side to the story. The same team found that supporting friends in the form of likes and supportive comments decreases their cortisol levels.
Led by Professor Sonia Lupien, researchers from the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the University of Montreal conducted a study which involved 88 teenagers aged 12 to 17 years old. The teenagers answered a questionnaire detailing their Facebook activities. The data involved their frequency of usage, number of Facebook friends, level of self-promoting behavior and level of encouraging behavior they extend to friends in social media.
The researchers also analyzed their cortisol levels four times daily in a span of three days. The team stressed that the cortisol levels were not entirely dependent on their social media usage. After factoring in external factors, the researchers assessed that the remote effect of the popular social media site on the stress hormone cortisol is approximately eight percent. Findings showed that adolescents with over 300 Facebook friends have higher stress levels.
"We can therefore imagine that those who have 1,000 or 2,000 friends on Facebook may be subjected to even greater stress," said Lupien.
The team also found there is a decrease in cortisol levels among teens who use the site with an encouraging or positive behavior manifested in the form of sending positive comments and message and hitting the like button.
At the time of Lupien's study, the researchers did not measure the teenager's risks in developing depression. Past studies have shown that young adults with high cortisol levels do not manifest symptoms of onset depression immediately and could take as long as 11 years. The researchers wrote the study will serve as preliminary proof that social media behaviors have links with daytime cortisol concentrations among teenagers.
The findings followed a separate study conducted by scientists in Denmark who found participant's happiness level increased after a week-long Facebook retreat. Lupien and team's findings were released in the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal, the official journal of the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology.
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