Can Social Media Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease?
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Can Social Media Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease?

23 Apr Can Social Media Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease?

Humans are fundamentally social creatures. Even those of us who are introverts require social interaction. It’s how we’re wired. As a species that’s been around for millennia, we’ve survived by banding together, devising intricate forms of communication, and forming social networks to accomplish feats that would be impossible to execute individually.

In our modern age, such social interactions have evolved to include more sophisticated technology. Social media, in all of its various forms, allow us to interact with more people — individuals and groups — than ever before, providing a platform for spreading and receiving information about the world, local communities, and personal interests. The opportunity by which social media affords everyone to join in allows even those who are more isolated to become active in any community they choose.

Social media is now being studied for its effect on the mind and body. Many of the initial reports are quite positive. Just this February, the prestigious Psychological Science, a Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, published an article entitled “Psychological Language on Twitter Predicts County-Level Heart Disease.” The article explores two of the factors known to be linked to heart disease — hostility and chronic stress — and how they are affected by the language used on the popular social media platform Twitter.

As described in the abstract of the study, led by Johannes C. Echstaedt and Hansen Andrew Schwartz of University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychology, “We used language expressed on Twitter to characterize community-level psychological correlates of age-adjusted mortality from atherosclerotic heart disease.”

They studied language patterns that reflected both negative emotional and social behaviors, as well as positive ones. In their findings, they concluded that social media is not only a reliable means of measuring the psychological characteristics of an entire community, but that these characteristics are also good indicators of heart-related deaths at the community level. In laypersons’ terms, social media may reflect the state of your health and how you might be affected by heart disease.

Following the advent of social media, companies producing applications for technological devices have begun offering their users a way to share the information produced from their users’ interactions with the applications on a variety of social media platforms. The ability to do so lets users express themselves even further, by sharing the activities they engage in with their peers and possibly even recruiting their peers to their community, thereby strengthening pre-existing relationships.

The article, “Social Media and the Cost of Caring,” discusses a study conducted by the Pew Research Center on the impact of social media on stress levels. The study surveyed 1,801 adults and formulated two conclusions: 1) Those who frequently use social media have lower levels of stress than those who don’t, and that women, in particular, have reported experiencing decreases in stress as a result of social media use; 2) In circumstances wherein social media increases awareness of stressful events in the lives of others, individuals can actually experience higher stress — an effect that has been called, “the cost of caring.”

From this study, it is evident that social media provides a very real and empathic forum for individuals to share their lives with others. What happens in social media communities is taken seriously by the individuals in those communities. Responsibly used and directed, social media sources have the power to have positive connecting influences, online and offline, on the individuals who use them.

Research associating social media and its effects on users continues to support the validity and power of the long-existing theory of the mind-body connection. Stress plays a tremendous role in overall human health, and when we use the primitive outlet of social and community interaction that’s been linked to stress reduction — even as manifested in today’s internet environment — we reap major benefits.

So next time you use an app like Choice Compass, don’t hold back from sharing your results on Twitter and Pinterest. Let others know how Choice Compass helped you listen to your heart. Social media is a proven way to pay things forward by exchanging information that not only benefits your mind and your body, but also the physical and emotional health of those within your community, even if the community consists of individuals who live a thousand miles away from one another.

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