The internet is good for you, new global wellbeing study finds - unless you're a girl

13 May 2024, 21:04 | Updated: 13 May 2024, 21:29

The study is thought to be the first of its kind to collect data from participants around the world, with case studies and data collected across 168 countries globally.
The study is thought to be the first of its kind to collect data from participants around the world, with case studies and data collected across 168 countries globally. Picture: Alamy

By Danielle de Wolfe

A new global study has found that using the internet has a positive impact on your overall wellbeing - unless you're a young girl, that is.

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The study, conducted by the Oxford Inter­net Institute, crunched the data of two million people aged between 15 to 99 over the course of a 16 year period.

According to the numbers, life satisfaction across all nations taking part was 8.5 per cent higher for those who accessed the internet, with 'positive experiences' 8.3 per cent higher than those who didn't.

The study is thought to be the first of its kind to collect data from participants around the world and at different life stages, with case studies and data collected across 168 countries globally.

The results suggested that those using the internet had better physical and mental health than those who avoided it.

The strong link between internet usage and positive wellbeing appears, at first glance, to counter modern-day suggestions that the internet age has led to an increase in mental health problems, isolation and body image issues.

The study is thought to be the first of its kind to collect data from participants around the world, with case studies and data collected across 168 countries globally.
The study is thought to be the first of its kind to collect data from participants around the world, with case studies and data collected across 168 countries globally. Picture: Alamy

However, the study also found that one group appeared to be adversely affected by the web - young women aged between 15 to 24.

This demographic reported worse “community wellbeing” as a result.

It concluded that 4.9 per cent of associations linking internet use and community wellbeing were negative among the age group.

The results came after analysts used more than 33,000 different statistical models and data sets collated from study participants worldwide.

Researchers concluding that 84.9 per cent of links between internet connectivity and wellbeing were positive.

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Published in the American Psychological Association's Technology, Mind and Behaviour journal, the researchers used data from the Gallup World Poll, spanning 2006-2021.

The study measured wellbeing based on eight distinctive indicators, according to professors: life satisfaction, daily negative and positive experiences, two measures of social wellbeing - including wellbeing linked to home location and location safety, physical wellbeing, community wellbeing and purpose.

Other factors were also considered as part of the study, including education, income and health.

Notably, however, the study did not look at social media use.

The results came after analysts used more than 33,000 different statistical models and data sets collated from study participants worldwide.
The results came after analysts used more than 33,000 different statistical models and data sets collated from study participants worldwide. Picture: Alamy

Participants' wellbeing was measured face-to-face and over the phone, using surveys that included questions like 'Does your home have access to the internet?'

Scientists noted their surprise at the positive links the study revealed, with Andrew Przybylski, a professor of human behaviour and technology at Oxford University, adding: "Overall, we found that average associations were consistent across internet adoption predictors and wellbeing outcomes...

"...with those who had access to or actively used the internet reporting meaningfully greater wellbeing than those who did not.

"We hope our findings bring some greater context to the screen time debate, however further work is still needed in this important area."

Assistant Professor Matti Vuorre, a previous research associate at the OII, added: "We were surprised to find a positive correlation between wellbeing and internet use across the majority of the thousands of models we used for our analysis."

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