Social media can be a boost to mental health - for some

USING social media could actually be beneficial to some people's mental health, says new research.

The study, conducted by University of Melbourne and Monash University discovered using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace contributes to good mental health for many users. 

Dr Peggy Kern from the University of Melbourne and Elizabeth Seabrook and Dr Nikki Rickard from Monash University reviewed 70 studies that looked at the relationship between social networking and depression, anxiety, and wellbeing.

The research showed that social networks can be useful for connecting with others and receiving and providing social support. 

Social media may even provide a unique source of social support for people with social anxieties who find face-to-face interaction difficult or impossible.

Not everyone benefits, with people who frequently compare themselves to others, post negative thoughts, or become addicted to social media being at greater risk of suffering depression and anxiety.

Those with social anxiety were more likely to passively browse news feeds rather than directly engage with them. Individuals with more depressive symptoms were more likely to post their negative feelings.

"Social media provides not only a window into the thoughts and emotions that people choose to share, but also some of their behavioural patterns that may help or hinder mental health," Dr Kern said.

Ms Seabrook said these unique behavioural patterns might be able to identify and predict the presence of depression and social anxiety in the user.

"With continued research it may be a powerful tool for the early identification of mental health risk," she said.

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