If you've noticed your breathing get a little more labored while scrolling through Facebook, you might not be imaging those symptoms. In fact, new research published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found that the more friends a person had on Facebook, the more likely they were to develop an upper respiratory infection.
If that seems like a weird coincidence, we don't blame you for thinking so. But prior research has connected social media with greater mental health problems like anxiety and depression, which doesn't seem like nearly as much of a stretch. And the researchers on this study believe that the connection to mental health could also eventually lead to problems with physical health, Medical Daily reports.
For the study, researchers at Regis University in Colorado asked 89 healthy college students to fill out a survey about both their health and their Facebook usage. They then tracked the students for 10 weeks, monitoring for symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. They found that both the students who had more Facebook friends and those who reported feeling anxious while on Facebook were more likely to develop an infection.
It's important, of course, to realize that a study of 89 people by no means proves that using Facebook causes respiratory infections. But the connection between social media anxiety and breathing problems is interesting. It's a connection that has been established in previous research, and so it's not hard to believe that social media could trigger anxiety that then triggers breathing problems.
"This study only examined college-aged Facebook users and, therefore, we do not know if these effects are similar in other populations," study author Jay P. Campisi told PsyPost. "For example, do grandparents who are using Facebook to view pictures of their grandchildren feel the same anxiety/stress that college students might have?"
We can't know for sure, but we'd guess that grandparents don't feel the same anxiety looking at photos of their grandchildren than these college students who are likely comparing their lives to those of their friends' social media presence.
And while the study only looks at Facebook, the same can probably be said of other social media outlets — especially Instagram, which was recently declared the worst social media platform for mental health. If it's bad for mental health, this study suggests that social media could also be having an impact on your physical health.
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