There is no evidence to suggest using Facebook is linked to widespread psychological harm, an Oxford Internet Institute (OII) study suggests.
It follows analysis of data from nearly a million people across 72 countries over 12 years 72 countries to learn more about the impact of Facebook on wellbeing.
The study, which is the largest of its kind, counters the belief that social media is psychologically harmful.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, who co-led the research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, said: "We examined the best available data carefully, and found they did not support the idea that Facebook membership is related to harm. Quite the opposite.
"In fact, our analysis indicates Facebook is possibly related to positive well-being."
The peer-reviewed research by Prof Przybylski and co-author Matti Vuorre is based on a large amount of data provided by Facebook. Both researchers are independent of the company and the research was not funded by the tech giant.
The researchers looked at Facebook data which showed how the number of users in each country grew between 2008 and 2019 divided into two age brackets, 13-34 and over 35.
Their findings showed that the association between using Facebook and wellbeing was slightly more positive for males as well as for younger people.
Writing in the research paper, the authors said: "Although reports of negative psychological outcomes associated with social media are common in academic and popular writing, evidence for harms is, on balance, more speculative than conclusive."
Several countries, including the UK, are considering legislation to protect social media users from online harms.
Meta, which owns Facebook, has faced scrutiny after testimony from whistle-blowers and press reports based on leaks suggested the company's own research pointed to negative impacts on some users.
This research only looked at Facebook and not Meta's other platforms, which include Instagram.
Writing in the research paper, the authors said: “Although reports of negative psychological outcomes associated with social media are common in academic and popular writing, evidence for harms is, on balance, more speculative than conclusive.”
Professor Matti Vuorre, also of the Oxford Internet Institute, who co-led the study, said: “Our findings should help guide the debate surrounding social media towards more empirical research foundations.
“We need more transparent collaborative research between independent scientists and the technology industry to better determine how, when and why modern online platforms might be affecting their users.”
Commenting on the study, Peter Etchells, professor of psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, said: “This is a fascinating study that attempts to link Facebook uptake with measures of mental wellbeing in a broad-strokes manner, using data from over 70 countries.
“Contrary to popular sentiment, the researchers didn’t find a negative association between the two; instead, it was generally the case that there were positive associations between country-level Facebook uptake and mental wellbeing.
But Prof Etchells said there were some caveats associated with the findings – which the study authors have addressed.
He said: “This is a descriptive study, and as such cannot tell us anything about causation – that is, we don’t know how, if, or to what extent, changes in Facebook adoption drive changes in mental wellbeing.