Forget taking a ‘digital detox’ to boost your mood, scientists claim the secret to happiness is to use the internet every day.
Being online helps you save time, connect to your friends faster and provides access to a wealth of information to help you make better decisions.
These are the findings of scientists from Norway who also discovered that it helps people get over a mid-life crisis faster.
However, the study has been criticised by some who argue the internet can also have a negative impact.
They claim it’s not about how much time you spend online, but what you do when you’re connected to the web that makes the biggest impact on happiness.
A steady decline in happiness as people approach middle-age is inevitable, using the internet makes life more bearable and keeps people smiling for longer. Internet usage has been found to increase happiness throughout adult life
Dr Fulvio Castellacci and Henrik Schwabe, of the Centre for Technology Innovation and Culture at the University of Oslo, looked at more than 100,000 Europeans in their study.
They plotted the number of broadband subscriptions per hundred people in EU countries against data on life satisfaction from the Eurobarometer survey.
After removing external factors such as income, occupation and location, they directly observed the relationship between time online and a person’s happiness.
The authors saw that in early adulthood, there was no difference in happiness between those who were online regularly and those who rarely used the internet.
What the study did unearth is that as a person ages, the people who were online more stayed happier for longer.
Traditionally, happiness throughout adult life follows a ‘U’ shaped curve.
In the early twentites people are optimistic, happy and enjoying themselves but as the years tick over this enthusiasm drops.
WHAT MAKES PEOPLE HAPPY?
Since 2013, the 193 countries, two observer states and eleven territories that constitute the United Nations have collectively celebrated International Happiness Day on March 20 every year.
It is designed to draw awareness to the rising issues of finding and maintaining a positive mental attitude towards life.
Extensive research by scientists has revealed that being happy isn’t something that just happens, but making small changes to your behaviour, your surroundings and your relationships can lead to a happier life.
Research into how to be happy has provided us with five simple ways to attain happiness, according to the NHS.
Managing stress with some time-management techniques can make a significant difference if you feel like your workload is making you feel overwhelmed. Regular exercise, including breathing exercises, can also help and be a positive change.
Trying to see the funny side of situations will help you cope when experiencing stress and activities like meeting up with friends or have a soak in the bath can improve your day, as well as avoiding things that will make you feel worse afterwards.
Treat yourself as you would act towards a valued friend and tell yourself positive things instead of putting yourself down.
Limit your alcohol intake, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
Talking about the stressful situations that you are in with a friend, family member or counsellor can help to release tension.
Happiness levels tend to hit a low at around fifty years old, when most people experience a mid-life crisis, before slowly picking up again.
This decline in happiness throughout adult life is slowed by internet usage, the researchers found.
In the study, the scientists write: ‘Active Internet users have a different well-being pattern over the life cycle compared to other individuals.
‘Specifically, we find that Internet users experience: (1) a more stable level and less pronounced decrease in life satisfaction in their younger adult life; and (2) an earlier and stronger recovery after the turning point of the U-shape.’
With a more gentle decline in happiness, internet-frequenters reached their turning point – mid-life crisis – at the age of 48.5.
Happiness levels tend to hit a low at around fifty years old, when most people experience a mid-life crisis, before slowly picking up again. Using the internet speeds up the mid-life crisis and keeps people happier throughout life (stock image)
This was considerably earlier than the semi-regular users and the internet exiles, who experienced their low point at 50 and 51.9 years old respectively.
Flying in the face of much existing research that claims social media and excessive internet-usage is detrimental to mental well-being, the researchers proposed three reasons as to why this study contradicts that narrative.
Practically, the internet can be utilised to save time, provides clearer information and can also be used to maintain social lives.
Dr Malte Elson, of the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, was not convinced by the results.
He told The Times: ‘You can have very positive and very negative experiences on the internet, and you can use an internet connection for meaningful but also less pleasant or enjoyable activities.
‘Summarising all of this under one umbrella term does not sufficiently map the diversity of the ‘place’ we call the internet.’