A new study has found watching YouTube cheers people up more than meeting up with casual friends.

Essex University conducted the research and discovered online stars such as Zoella and PewDiePie can cheer people up more than meeting up with acquaintances. 

The psychology department's Dr Veronica Lamarche found people even feel liked, respected and understood by fictional characters.

She said: "Parasocial relationships are an important part of our psychological toolbox when it comes to feeling like we have people out there who are able to validate and support us in times of need, even if we can never actually meet with them in reality."

More than 1,080 participants took part and most of them reported having strong parasocial relationships.

The research reflects these one-sided friendships can meet emotional needs similarly to traditional relationships.

Though close companionships were considered the most effective connection for fulfilling emotional needs. ,

Dr Lamarche added: "People naturally believe their closest relationships are the best way of fulfilling their emotional needs.

"However, when people were asked to think about a recent time where a close other had hurt their feelings, some people became even more confident that their parasocial ties would be able to respond to their needs."