Study Shows Instagram Is the Most Damaging Social Media Platform to Young People's Mental Health

New research from the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) shows that Instagram is the most detrimental social media network to young people’s minds.

The study, called #StatusOfMind, examined the negative and positive effects of social media on young people’s mental health by studying nearly 1500 individuals aged 14 to 24.

Researchers were able to see how certain social media platforms impact issues such as depression, anxiety, self-identity, loneliness and body image.

via ABC 10:

Snapchat followed closely behind Instagram with the most negative impact. Facebook came third, then Twitter. YouTube had the most positive effects on young people, according to the study.

Instagram, which boasted 700 million users last month, showed high levels of issues with body image, particularly with women. 

“Instagram makes it easy for girls and women to feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’,” said an anonymous girl on the report.

The photo-sharing app also scored very low on effects on sleep quality and FoMO, which is “Fear of Missing Out”, the feeling someone gets when they’re worried things are happening without them present.

FoMO directly relates to feelings of anxiety.

About 91 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds are on social media, according to the study. 

Additionally, social media is found to be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. In 2016, the issue was under debate in the UK government with some arguing that social media networks are fueling a mental health crisis in young people.

Social media addiction is thought to affect about 5 percent of young people, according to the study.

“…the time you can spend on some of these apps- they can be very addictive. I lose time to revise, can’t do homework, can’t interact with family/friends and lose a lot of sleep at night time.” said another anonymous person.

The researchers also pointed out, rates of depression and anxiety in young people have spiked 70 percent in the past 25 years and that cyber bullying affects about 70 percent of young people.

On the flip side, the study did find some social media platforms result in positive effects on young people. Researchers found social media allows users to have access to other people’s health experiences and expert health information which helps them relate to real-life issues they may be dealing with.

The report also said social media can help young people feel emotional support and experience community building. Social media is also a way many young people express themselves. It could be an outlet for art, fashion and endless hobbies which allows users to connect with others who have similar interests.

“Social media allows me to post and express myself in a way I can’t do in everyday life. I can use it as a place to vent my feelings when I have no one to talk to.” said an anonymous person on the report.

YouTube scored highest in positive factors including awareness, community building and self-expression. This is likely because of the number of informational videos available on the video-sharing site and because the platform allows people to post vlogs about experiences and hobbies or display their passions and talent.

The new study is calling for pop-up heavy usage warnings which would alert users when they’ve reached a dangerous level of time on an app. Researchers found about 70 percent of young people support the idea of pop-up warnings.

Other ideas for managing social media impacts on the mental health of young people include mandating social platforms to highlight when an image has been digitally manipulated and for safe social media practices to be taught in school. The team also called for more research to be done on the effects of social media on mental health.

Remember — if social media makes you feel overwhelmed in any way, it’s perfectly okay to take a break!

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