Estimating the association between Facebook adoption and well-being in 72 countries

Vuorre, Matti; Przybylski, Andrew K.
Royal Society Open Science

Social media’s potential effects on well-being have received considerable research interest, but much of past work is hampered by an exclusive focus on demographics in the Global North and inaccurate self-reports of social media engagement. We describe associations linking 72 countries’ Facebook adoption to the well-being of 946 798 individuals from 2008 to 2019. We found no evidence suggesting that the global penetration of social media is associated with widespread psychological harm: Facebook adoption predicted life satisfaction and positive experiences positively, and negative experiences negatively, both between countries and within countries over time. Nevertheless, the observed associations were small and did not reach a conventional 97.5% one-sided credibility threshold in all cases. Facebook adoption predicted aspects of well-being more positively for younger individuals, but country-specific results were mixed. To move beyond studying aggregates and to better understand social media’s roles in people’s lives, and their potential causal effects, we need more transparent collaborative research between independent scientists and the technology industry.