Anxiety-inducing Facebook behavior is associated with higher rates of upper respiratory infection in college-aged users

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Exposure to chronic stress can suppress immune function and increase susceptibility to infection. Recent evidence indicates that social network use (e.g., Facebook) can serve as a chronic stressor to some users and contribute to poor health, however, mechanisms underlying these interactions remain unclear. In the current study we investigated if Facebook user behavior might help start to explain interactions between Facebook use, stress and health. In this prospective study, healthy college students completed online questionnaires assessing Facebook use, health and then were followed for 10 weeks to track incidence of upper respiratory infection (URI). Subjects who reported that Facebook provoked anxiety/stress demonstrated a significantly higher number of URI than those not reporting Facebook-induced anxiety/stress and having more Facebook friends was associated with increased anxiety/stress and the number of URI. Users who demonstrated anxiety regarding their Facebook use were more likely to demonstrate a pattern of increased number of log-ins to Facebook/day and these anxiety-linked behavior patterns were associated with poorer health. The other health practices and psychological processes assessed (e.g., physical activity levels, sleep, social support) do not appear to explain these associations. These results suggest an association between specific Facebook use, psychological anxiety and health might exist.

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