The next time somebody accuses you for spending too much time on Facebook, just tell them you’re doing it for the health benefits.
Sure, there are some negative things social media does to you—like making you socially awkward, screwing up your sleep patterns, altering your memories, driving you to get plastic surgery and emptying out your wallet.
But as much as society loves to hate social media, you’ve got to appreciate all the good things it does, like circulating adorable cat videos and hilarious GIFs that perfectly explain how you feel about working out. Plus, it allows you to be social whenever, wherever with the tap of a finger. And science just revealed the ultimate perk; having a Facebook might actually help you live longer, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers looked at 12 million social media profiles and compared them with data from the California Department of Public Health, and found that in a given year, the average Facebook user is about 12 percent less likely to die than someone who doesn’t use the site. No, that doesn’t mean that ditching your Facebook profile means you’re going to die earlier—but the size of your social network (online or IRL) does matter. The researchers found that people with average or large social networks (in the top 50 to 30 percent) lived longer than those in the lowest 10 percent, which is consistent with classic studies that show people with more and stronger social ties tend to live longer lives. For the first time, science is demonstrating that it may matter online too.
“Social relationships seem to be as predictive of lifespan as smoking, and more predictive than obesity and physical inactivity. We’re adding to that conversation by showing that online relationships are associated with longevity too,” as study author James Fowler, Ph.D., professor of political science and global health at the University of California, San Diego said in a release.
The researchers also found that the people who received the most friend requests lived the longest, but initiating friend requests didn’t necessary affect mortality. They also found that people who engage in more online behaviors that indicate face-to-face social activity (like posting photos) have reduced mortality, but online-only behaviors (like sending messages and writing wall posts) doesn’t necessary make a difference in longevity. (And, actually, scrolling but not “liking” might make you depressed.)
So, no, you shouldn’t forgo happy hour for some mindless scrolling of your news feed. Remember: It’s not the posts, likes, and comments that count—it’s the social sentiment behind them.
This story was originally published on Shape.com.sg.