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Instagram has worst effect on young people’s mental health

According to a recent survey of almost 1,500 teens and young adults, Instagram is the worst social media network for mental health and well-being. The #StatusofMind survey found that Instagram got points for self-expression and self-identity but it was also associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.”

Respondents were asked to score how each of the social media platforms they use impact upon issues such as anxiety, loneliness and community building.

The site with the most positive rating was YouTube, followed by Twitter. Facebook and Snapchat came third and fourth respectively.

Previous studies have suggested that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are more likely to report psychological distress. The report states: “Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life…These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude.”

Social media posts can also set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, the authors wrote. This may explain why Instagram, where personal photos take center stage, received the worst scores for body image and anxiety.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) report said: "The platforms that are supposed to help young people connect with each other may actually be fuelling a mental health crisis.”

To reduce the harmful effects of social media on children and young adults, the Royal Society is calling for social media companies to make changes. The report recommends the introduction of a pop-up “heavy usage” warning within these apps or website—something 71% of survey respondents said they’d support.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the RSPH, said: "Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people's mental health issues.

"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.

"As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people's mental health and wellbeing."

It is clear that there are positives to young people using social media networks but there are also many negatives in the form of harmful effects on children and young adult’s mental health and wellbeing. Serious thought must be given to counteracting this effect as a matter of urgency.

Swain & Co Solicitors work tirelessly to assist vulnerable people and ensure that their rights under the Mental Health Act are observed.  If you, a family member or friend are experiencing problems or are detained under the Mental Health Act contact our team today on 023 92 483322. 

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