Your mental health is being affected by Instagram – Report

Instagram is the worst social media site in terms of its impact on the mental health of young people, a report has suggested.

The #StatusofMind survey found the photo-sharing app negatively impacted on people’s body image, sleep and fear of missing out.

However, the survey of 1,479 youngsters aged 14 to 24, found Instagram was positive in terms of self-expression and self-identity.

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.

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.’

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Recommendations included introducing pop-ups on sites such as Twitter and Facebook warning users about heavy usage – which the RSPH said was supported by seven in 10 people surveyed – and social media platforms discreetly signposting help to those potentially suffering from mental health issues.

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.

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‘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.’

Dr Becky Inkster, honorary research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘Young people sometimes feel more comfortable talking about personal issues online.

‘As health professionals, we must make every attempt to understand modern youth culture expressions, lexicons, and terms to better connect with their thoughts and feelings.’

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