In the News: Keeping Yourself Informed



social media use may increase longevity

Stronger social networks in the real world predict longer lives. Do stronger social networks in the online world predict the same? A study led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego suggests yes. [1] The study found that people who were active on Facebook lived longer than people who were not. In addition, individuals who had larger friend networks on the social media site lived longer than their counterparts who had smaller friend networks. Mortality levels were lowest for Facebook users who had the most offline social interaction, evidenced by photograph posts, but not necessarily for Facebook users who had the most online social interaction, evidenced by message posts. What is interesting is that friend requests and longevity were associated, with those who received a greater number of friend requests experiencing a lower risk for mortality. The researchers suggest that social media sites such as Facebook offer a means to maintain social relationships and that online social networks may express some of the same features as real-world social networks. It is important to note, however, that the study was a correlational one and that other factors such as socioeconomic status may play a role in the reduced mortality risk seen in Facebook users. [2]


survey reveals that a quarter of college students are hungry

Between March and May 2016, several national campus-based organizations carried out a survey on food insecurity among college students. The results of the survey, published in October 2016, reflect the responses of 3,765 students at various colleges across 12 states. A total of 8 community colleges and 26 four-year colleges are represented in the survey, including UCLA and 6 other UC campuses. The survey provides some shocking statistics. Almost half of the students respondents were found to have experienced food insecurity within the past month, and almost a quarter reported levels of food insecurity that would qualify them as hungry. Food insecurity was found to be associated with other socioeconomic factors, including housing insecurity, college type, and race. Food insecure students indeed tended to have problems acquiring or paying for housing, and food insecurity was more common within community colleges and among students of color. Food insecurity represents a common problem that can take a toll on academics as well as performance in work and other domains. The 2016 national survey on food insecurity can serve as a wake-up call for our higher education system to start researching and implementing strategies to combat student hunger and provide better resources for students struggling to maintain a healthy diet. [3-4]


the way you think about exercise may be as important as exercise itself

There is little doubt that exercise can be beneficial to your health. But does the way you approach exercise make a difference? Research done at the University of Freiburg in Germany suggests that exercise is more beneficial when people have a positive attitude toward it. [5] In the study, subjects who already believed that physical exertion would have positive effects received greater pleasure from an exercise activity, along with greater improvement in mood and greater reduction in anxiety, than subjects who were less optimistic from the outset. Based on data obtained from electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings, subjects who had more positive attitudes before the exercise task also exhibited more relaxed neuronal firing. The study suggests that beliefs and expectations may determine the extent to which the benefits of exercise are realized, and these beliefs and expectations may have significant consequences for personal health. [6]


dogs can help students cope with homesickness

A 2016 study assessed the effects of dog therapy on homesickness among first-year college students at the University of British Columbia. Of the 44 students recruited for the study, half were assigned to 45-minute dog therapy sessions once a week for 8 weeks while half served as a control group. The researchers found that the dog therapy sessions improved quality of life and reduced homesickness after the 8-week period. The control group, on the other hand, ended up with greater levels of homesickness at the conclusion of the 8-week period than before the study. The researchers suggest the social interactions with dogs, handlers, and other homesick study participants during the dog therapy sessions to be the source of the observed decrease in homesickness within the trial group. There are substantial implications for the apparent effectiveness of dog therapy in alleviating homesickness. Homesickness is associated with higher dropout rates for first-years, so interacting with our furry four-legged friends, if truly therapeutic, may prove to be a sustainable strategy for maintaining health and academic success among those of us struggling with homesickness. [7]


References ▾

  1. “Live Long and ... Facebook?” (2016).
  2. “Online social integration is associated with reduced mortality risk.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. (2016).
  3. “1 in 4 College Students Is Hungry: Survey.” (2016).
  4. “Hunger on Campus: The Challenge of Food Insecurity for College Students.” The Student Pirgs. (2016).
  5. “Believe it or not: Exercise does more good if you believe it will.” (2016).
  6. “Expectations affect psychological and neurophysiological benefits even after a single bout of exercise.” J Behav Med. (2016).
  7. “For College Freshmen, Four-Legged Friends Chase Away Homesickness.” (2016).