Help avoid depression this holiday season by staying off Facebook, new study asserts

Research has long established that depression rates are at their highest during the Christmas season.

Experts postulate a number of reason for this: holiday stress, lack of sleep, excessive intake of junk food, and dreary winter weather to name a few.

Now a new study by the University of Copenhagen suggests that use of Facebook is also contributing to the holiday depression phenomenon.

The study of more than 1,000 participants concluded that “regular use of social networking such as Facebook can negatively affect your emotional well-being and satisfaction with life.”

Presumably this negative effect is happening during all times and season—and is just more pronounced at Christmas time.

According to researchers who organized the study, the Facebook depression is due to feelings of envy created from “unrealistic social comparisons” when looking at the updates of others.

Taking a break from the social network was shown to have a positive effect on a person’s wellbeing, according to the researchers.

To conduct the research, more than 1,000 participants were divided into two groups. One continued using Facebook as usual; the others refrained from using Facebook for a week.

After a week without Facebook, the treatment group showed statistically significant improvement in well-being, researchers found.

The well-being improvement depended on the amount of time they previously spent on Facebook and whether or not they were passive users and tended to envy others on Facebook.

“Confirming previous research, this study found that ‘lurking’ on Facebook may cause negative emotions,” commented Brenda K. Wiederhold, from the California and Virtual Reality Medical Institute.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that Wiederhold also noted that other studies have shown that actively connecting with close friends–both in real life or on Facebook–may actually increase one’s sense of well-being.

The opposing conclusions of the different studies suggests that the amount of time spent on Facebook is the critical variable in determining whether the effect will be positive or negative.

So, to play it safe, why not limit your time on Facebook this holiday season… and all the time?

Information from the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.