Deleting Facebook Could Lower Stress Hormone Levels, Study Finds

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A study from researchers at the University of Queensland shows that staying off of Facebook for five days can actually lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Yet despite the study, and the recent #DeleteFacebook movement, Facebook user statistics remain strong. Chanda Khanna/Getty Images

Facebook users looking for an excuse to delete their account—beyond the recent and sizable data breach the company was involved in—may just have gotten one.

A study out of the University of Queensland in Australia, published in The Journal of Social Psychology, found that taking a break from Facebook, even if it's for less than a week, can actually lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in a person's body.

There is, however, a catch. While those participants in the study saw physically lower levels of the stress hormone, they also reported feeling lower levels of "well-being," according to a release from the university.

Participants also reported looking forward to using the social media platform again, the release said. The study's lead author, Eric Vanman, said if the participants were aware that they were experiencing lower levels of cortisol, they might not feel as stressed over the break.

While the 138 participants in the study took a break only from Facebook, the researchers think the same thing would happen to anyone who took a break from their favorite form of social media.

"I believe that our findings are probably not unique to Facebook," Vanman told Newsweek.

"Some of my own students constantly check Instagram and Snapchat during my lectures, so I'm guessing that extending our research to other platforms would [show] similar effects," he said.

Social media platforms have, however, been found to provide users with positive interactions and feelings of support and connectedness in some cases, which can in turn lower levels of depression and anxiety. But conversely, negative interactions and social comparison can lead to higher levels of the two, a review of research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found.

The dissatisfaction participants in Vanman's study felt could have been a result of the disconnect users who stop using a platform can feel from their friends and family still on the platform. That disconnect that users experience could end up causing more stress than just using the platform in the first place would, especially for those who typically have had positive experiences on Facebook.

The participants in Vanman's study, who were identified as "active" Facebook users, were only required to give up the social media for five days. Further research would be required to determine whether a longer break would help alleviate the negative feelings participants reported.

A study conducted on more than 1,000 Facebook users in Denmark in 2015 showed that when some participants stopped using Facebook for a week they experienced higher life satisfaction and more positive emotions than those who continued using the platform—something Vanman and his team are looking for funding to study further.

"We would like to run a longer-term study as a follow-up. It will be difficult to do, however, as we would have to provide an incentive for participants to cut themselves off completely from their social media," he told Newsweek. That further research would require users to stay away from the social media platform for a month or so.