A new global study suggests that internet access and use are statistically associated with increased well-being. This is in contradiction to previous studies that labeled the internet, particularly social media as depressing.

Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford, analyzed data from over two million people in 168 countries between 2006 and 2021. The study examined the link between internet use and eight well-being indicators, including life satisfaction, positive and negative experiences, social well-being, physical well-being, community well-being, and experiences of purpose.

“We were surprised to find a positive correlation between well-being and internet use across the majority of the models we used for our analysis,” said Assistant Professor Matti Vuorre of Tilburg University and Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute.

The study found that 84.9% of the associations between internet connectivity and well-being were positive and statistically significant. This positive correlation held consistent across various age groups and regions, including Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

However, the researchers also identified a potential area of concern. They found that a small percentage (4.9%) of associations between internet use and community well-being were negative, particularly among young women aged 15-24. This finding aligns with previous research suggesting a link between social media use and depressive symptoms in young women.

“Overall, our findings suggest that internet access and use are associated with greater well-being,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski of the Oxford Internet Institute. “We hope this adds context to the ongoing screen-time debate.”

The researchers acknowledge the need for further investigation. They call on social media platforms to share more user data with researchers to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of the internet’s impact on well-being.

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