Facebook and mental wellbeing: A crossover randomised controlled study [version 1; referees: 1 approved with reservations, 1 not approved]
© 2016 Wolf A. Objective: To study the effect of reducing Facebook use for two weeks on self-reported mental wellbeing in a student population. Methods: Students at the University of Oxford (n=78) participated in a randomised crossover study which consisted of two consecutive two-week periods of minimised Facebook use, followed by normal Facebook use, or vice-versa. Participants were evaluated after each two-week period using the 14-item Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS), and completed questionnaires about their Facebook use. Differences in WEMWBS scores were evaluated using a paired t-test. Results: Of those enrolled, 57 (73%) students completed the entire study. 93% reported reduced Facebook use during the intervention period. When limiting their Facebook use, participants had an average WEMWBS score of 46.0, compared to 43.7 during the control period, equating to a difference of 2.3 points (95% CI: 0.4 to 4.2; p=0.016; Cohen's d = 0.33). There were no significant differences in dropout between the two groups (p=0.3), or differences in effect when stratifying by gender (p=0.9) or relationship status (p=0.6). Conclusion: Reducing Facebook use may be an effective intervention for improving mental wellbeing in university students. Future studies should examine effects in other participant groups, and use longer follow-up periods.