Tell me how many friends you have, and I'll tell you how stressed you are. Teens who have a lot of Facebook friends are more at risk of becoming stressed.
The new study was conducted by the University of Montreal and published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.
For the research, the team worked with more than 80 Facebook users between the ages of 12 and 17. They were surveyed on their frequency of Facebook use, how many friends they have, and how they network with their friends. They also collected samples of cortisol no more than four times for three days.
Based on the results, teens who had more than 300 friends had an increased level of cortisol than those who had fewer than 300 friends. In fact, barring any other factor that can cause teen stress like school, having plenty of Facebook friends increased cortisol by 8%.
Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that is closely related to stress. It's also called stress hormone since it regulates many activities of the body once it goes into flight-or-fight mode. These include increased heart rate, metabolism of fat and carbohydrate, blood pressure, and activation of the central nervous system.
To be clear, stress isn't bad but a normal response to a threat. The increased heart rate, blood pressure, and decreased immune response are all needed to make the body more prepared to defend itself against these threats. However, once stress becomes chronic and the body releases a lot of cortisol, it can have an adverse effect, such as inflammation that can damage the different organs. It can also increase the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.
For teens, a high level of stress is linked to depression, although the researchers believe that this will happen much later. Previous studies show it takes more than a decade of elevated cortisol levels before depression sets in.