According to a new study, updating status messages on Facebook lowers loneliness among college students, even when the status message isn't 'liked' by friends.

Previous research has associated Facebook use with anxiety, debt and even higher weight. Whether or not Facebook increases depression is still open to debate. But almost everyone agrees that Facebook is addictive, and according to one study, even more than sex.

The present study tested whether updating status messages had any effect on loneliness. Researchers from Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany along with University of Arizona assessed depression, happiness and loneliness levels of a group of college students. These students also gave the researchers access to their Facebook page by adding a fake friend to their friend list.

Next, researchers asked a subgroup of the participants to post more status updates than they usually do and the other subgroup wasn't given any such instruction on their Facebook usage.

Over a week, the first subgroup posted more status updates on their Facebook walls. Researchers assessed each participant's state of depression, happiness and loneliness through a questionnaire that the participants answered at the end of each day.

Study analysis found that people who posted more status updates on their Facebook wall had a low score on the loneliness scale than those who didn't add more information to their Facebook account. However, their level of depression or happiness remained unchanged over the duration of the study.

Being popular wasn't associated with being less lonely as the status updates made people feel less lonely even if nobody "liked" the update.

Researchers attribute the low level of loneliness to the "social snacking" effect where people tend to think about their social contacts which makes them feel less lonely.

"Similar to a snack temporarily reducing hunger until the next meal, social snacking may help tolerate the lack of 'real' social interaction for a certain amount of time," the researchers wrote in the paper.

The study is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.