Americans are most likely to use online social networks, according to a new study from the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Of 22 markets (not including Ireland) studied between 7 April and 8 May, respondents in the US most often said they use websites like Facebook and MySpace: 46pc said they use such sites, 36pc use the internet, but do not access these sites, and 18pc said they never go online.

Poland (43pc), Britain (43pc) and South Korea (40pc) were relatively close behind the United States in social network usage. And at least a third of all respondents in France (36pc), Spain (34pc), Russia (33pc) and Brazil (33pc) said they engage in social networking.

Respondents in Germany and Japan stood out among highly connected markets for their comparatively low levels of participation in social networking. While 31pc of Germans use these types of sites, 49pc go online at least occasionally but choose not to use them. In Japan, 24pc are engaged in social networking, while 44pc have internet access but are not engaged.

The survey also found that, while involvement in social networking is relatively low in many less economically developed nations, this is largely because many in those countries do not go online at all, rather than disinterest in social networking in particular. According to the study, when people use the internet in middle and low income countries, they tend to participate in social networking.

For example, in both Russia and Brazil, most respondents do not go online; among those who do use the internet, however, social networking is very popular. In both countries, 33pc say they use social networking sites, while only 10pc have internet access but are not involved in social networking.

The same general pattern is true in the two African nations surveyed. In Kenya and Nigeria, when people have the opportunity to go online, they tend to use social networking sites. Roughly one-in-five Kenyans (19pc) participate in social networking, while just 5pc use the internet but do not participate. Similarly, 17pc of Nigerians go to these sites, while only 7pc go online but do not access such sites.