June 20, 2017

Instagram Ranked As Having The Worst Effect On Young People’s Mental Health, Study Finds

The photo-sharing app, Instagram is the worst social media site in terms of its impact on the mental health of young people, according to the recently published study.

Instagram Ranked As Having The Worst Effect On Young People's Mental Health (9)

In early 2017, Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM) have surveyed almost 1,500 young people (aged between 14 and 24) from across the UK and published a new report, #StatusOfMind, examining the positive and negative effects of social media on young people’s health.

The survey asked those young people about how each of the social media networks affected their mental health, with factors such as anxiety, body image, depression, loneliness, sleep deprivation, etc being taken into account.

Based on the ratings young people gave to each platform, the researchers also established a league table rankings of social media platforms according to their impact on young people’s mental health.

According to the survey, YouTube tops the table as the most positive, followed by Twitter and Facebook, while Instagram and Snapchat coming out as the most detrimental to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Here’s a ranking of the big five platforms:

  • YouTube (most positive)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram (most negative)

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH, said: “It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

So what are the solutions to these problems? RSPH and YHM are now calling for action from government and social media companies to help promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, whilst mitigating the potential negatives.

The report’s recommendations include:

  1. The introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media – Implementing pop-ups in their apps that warn users to take a break between use. 71% of young people surveyed by RSPH support this recommendation.
  2. Social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts and discretely signpost to support – 80% of young people support this recommendation.
  3. Social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated, in order to cut down on problems such as body consciousness – 68% of young people support this recommendation.

YouTube video

“Socializing from behind a screen can also be uniquely isolating, obscuring mental health challenges even more than usual. As the first generation of social media users become adults, it is important that we lay the groundwork now to minimize potential harm and shape a digital future that is healthy and thriving.”

However, these networks can also be seen as good, the report said. Instagram, for example, was found to have a positive effect on self-expression and self-identity.

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