Facebook Could Be Used To Help Treat Mental Health Issues, Study Suggests

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Using Facebook to look at old photos of yourself could be used as a way of lifting bad moods and helping treat mental health issues, according to new research.

Dr Alice Good, of the University of Portsmouth, has found that almost 90% of users of the social network access the site to look at their own wall posts and 75% look at their own photos when they are feeling low.

She says that such "self-soothing" use of Facebook is beneficial to the user's mood, especially if they are prone to feeling low.

And she believes this contradicts previous research which suggests that looking at Facebook can be bad for your mental health.

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The survey of 144 Facebook users found that people often use the social network to reminisce, using old photos and wall posts as a form of comfort.

Looking back at older photos and wall posts was the main activity and the one that made them happiest.

The survey also found that people who have experienced mental health issues were particularly comforted by the site.
Dr Good said: "The results indicate we could use self-soothing as a form of treatment for low moods."

She added: "We were very surprised by these findings, which contradict some recent reports.

"Although this was only a small study, we will go on to study larger groups to see if the results remain consistent."

Psychologist Dr Clare Wilson, also of the University of Portsmouth, said: "Although this is a pilot study, these findings are fascinating.

"Facebook is marketed as a means of communicating with others. Yet this research shows we are more likely to use it to connect with our past selves, perhaps when our present selves need reassuring.

"The pictures we often post are reminders of a positive past event. When in the grip of a negative mood, it is too easy to forget how good we often feel. Our positive posts can remind us of this."

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Dr Good's study has concluded that looking at comforting photos, known as reminiscent therapy, could be an effective method of treating mental health.

Scientists already know that reminiscent therapy helps older people with memory problems.

The use of old photos, items and films can provide a way for people with short-term memory loss to feel comforted by objects that are familiar to them.

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This new research shows that it could also be an effective treatment for people with depression or anxiety.

The act of self-soothing is an essential tool in helping people to calm down, especially if they have an existing mental health condition.

If a patient self soothes there is less chance of a problem escalating.

The study also found that using mobile phones was the most popular way of accessing Facebook with 94% having their phone on them at all times.

About 70% of respondents also preferred to access Facebook using their phone over more conventional methods, such as a PC or laptop, which Dr Good suggests shows that people have a desire for immediacy, both in accessing the site as well as for viewing photos.

This study, published in the journal Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction, is part of a larger research project that looks at how applications can support wellbeing and effectively self soothe.

In the study, the average Facebook user was 34 and 39% of the sample had experienced mental health problems.

A total of 80% of respondents had a smartphone and 86% visit Facebook more than once a day.

 
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