An extensive study into happiness and use of Facebook has found that over time, use of the social media platform is having a negative effect on users' well-being.
While previous studies have found links between the two, they have had limited or unrepresentative samples, or else focused on a broader range of social media.
Data provided by Facebook in 2016 stated that the average user spends 50 minutes on the site per day.
Others studies in this area of social media harm, have focused on some of the techniques deployed by Facebook – not dissimilar to gambling institutions, for increasing visitors to the site.
5,208 subjects were recruited in three waves (2013, 2014, and 2015) to the new study, chosen as a representative sample of the US population, and each wave's Facebook activity was monitored for a period of two years.
It was carried out by researchers Holly B. Shakya of the University of California and Nicholas A. Christakis of Yale University.
The study confirmed that Facebook interactions can have a negative effect on well-being, and that the quantity of social media use also played a part in reducing well-being.
On average, actions on social media such as clicking a link, updating one's status, or clicking 'like', were associated with a decrease of five to eight per cent in self-reported mental health.
Writing for The Harvard Business Review, authors Shakya and Christakis explained that to calculate "well-being" they measured self-reported mental health, self-reported physical health.
They also analysed data about clicks, likes, numbers of friends, and hours spent on the site, directly from participant's accounts.
Shakya and Christakis were able to link specific activities on Facebook to diminished well-being.
We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.
The study's results also differ from previous investigations, by suggesting that the quantity of time spent on Facebook contributes to the reduced measures of well-being, where previous studies focused on quality.
The pair suggested that the danger of prolonged social media use is when users believe they are engaging in human interaction, when in fact they are receiving none of the benefits of face to face interaction.
They also concluded that the negatives of online interactions were comparable to or greater than the benefits of offline interactions, suggesting a 'tradeoff' between the two worlds.