Amid countless reports concerning the negative impact of web use, and the resultant laws to try and curb its more sinister aspects, some more positive news has been revealed – there’s a link between internet access and improved wellbeing.

A wide-reaching report (which looked into behaviours of some two million people, aged 15-99 from 168 countries) found that people with access to the internet reported greater levels of social wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Eight indicators were included in the research, among them: life satisfaction, daily negative and positive experiences, and community wellbeing. Links between these indicators and internet access that the researchers deemed ‘statistically significant’ were discovered in 85% of subjects.

Conversely, negative links between the indicators and web usage were discovered in just 5% of cases (being most prevalent among women aged 15 to 24).

The researchers were keen to acknowledge that their study had its limitations – most notably being unable to prove cause and effect, as some of these benefits may come from individuals being wealthier as a result of their internet connectivity and not from the access itself. The study also didn’t consider specifics, such as social media access, instead looking at it as a whole.

That said, they argued that the results illustrated why policy decisions should be made using data such as theirs, rather than reactionary fears or anecdotal evidence.

Lead researcher, Professor Andrew Przybylski of Oxford University, said: “We really do want the best for our kids, [but] if our policy and if our resources are guided by anecdote we’re going to be letting a lot of families down.”

He added that governments should not go in “guns blazing with strong beliefs and a one size fits all solution” but instead be willing to have their minds changed by data.

These calls were echoed by head of policy and research at Internet Matters, Simone Vibert. Whilst she acknowledged that internet connectivity came with both positives and negatives, Vibert told the BBC:

“There is a clear need for an evidence-based approach, making evidence such as this and further research vital.”