Home Tech Oxford Internet Institute Study: Facebook’s Global Expansion Not Associated with Psychological Harm

Oxford Internet Institute Study: Facebook’s Global Expansion Not Associated with Psychological Harm


A recent study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) suggests that there is no indication that the worldwide proliferation of Facebook is connected to widespread psychological distress.

The research analyzed changes in well-being across 72 countries as the usage of the social media platform increased. Contrary to the prevailing belief that social media is detrimental to mental health, the researchers argue that their findings counter this assumption.

Several countries, including the UK, are contemplating legislative measures to safeguard social media users from online harm. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has faced scrutiny following whistleblower testimonies and leaks that implied the company’s internal research revealed negative effects on some users.

Notably, this study focused solely on Facebook and did not encompass Meta’s other platforms, such as Instagram.

Professor Andrew Przybylski of the OII explained that the study aimed to answer a fundamental question: “As countries become more saturated with social media, how does the wellbeing of their populations look?” Contrary to common belief, the data and analysis conducted did not substantiate the assumption that increased social media presence is detrimental to well-being.

Previous work by Professor Przybylski at the OII similarly indicated a limited connection between teenagers’ technology usage and mental health problems.

However, it’s important to note that this report only examined the overall impact of Facebook use on a national scale. This broad perspective might not capture the effects on specific vulnerable groups or the influence of particular types of content, such as self-harm promotion.

The study’s policy implication, according to Professor Przybylski, emphasizes the necessity for better data accessibility from tech companies to answer inquiries regarding social media’s impact.

The UK’s Online Safety Bill (OSB), which is nearing becoming law, aims to safeguard individuals from online harms. Professor Sonia Livingstone of the London School of Economics pointed out that while the study challenges concerns about screen time, its relevance to the OSB is limited due to its general nature.

The peer-reviewed research by Prof. Przybylski and co-author Matti Vuorre is rooted in a substantial amount of data provided by Facebook. Both researchers are independent of the company, and the research wasn’t funded by the tech giant. The study compared Facebook user growth data from 2008 to 2019 with well-being data from the Gallup World Poll Survey, encompassing nearly a million people. The researchers found no proof that increasing social media adoption was linked to a negative effect on psychological well-being.

While the study’s findings don’t establish a causal relationship, they underscore the significance of technology companies collaborating with researchers to advance understanding in this field.

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