Facebook May Be 'Safe' Social Space for Adults With Autism

News Picture: Facebook May Be 'Safe' Social Space for Adults With Autism

MONDAY, March 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate use of Facebook may help make adults with autism happier, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that happiness among adults with autism increased with Facebook use, but only up to a certain point.

The researchers also said their results can't be generalized to overall use of social media, because the use of Twitter did not boost happiness.

The study was led by Deborah Ward, from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif., and was published recently in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

"Some studies report that up to 50 percent of adults with [autism] have co-occurring social anxiety disorder. Facebook may provide a safe starting point for training and refinement of conversational skills," said journal Editor-in-Chief Brenda Wiederhold. She's with the Interactive Media Institute in San Diego and the Virtual Reality Medical Institute in Brussels, Belgium.

"Increased self-confidence in one's abilities may lead to eventual translation of these new skill sets into improved face-to-face interactions," she said in a journal news release.

In the study, more than 100 adults with autism were asked about their use of social media, and then they filled out a questionnaire designed to measure happiness levels.

Those who preferred to use Facebook showed greater happiness than those who did not, while the same did not hold true for Twitter users.

The study didn't prove Facebook was the direct cause of happiness; it could only show an association.

Being able to use Facebook to interact with other people, instead of having to do so face-to-face, may help protect against mental health problems associated with autism, such as depression, according to the researchers.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, news release, March 12, 2018