Instagram leading social media ‘mental health crisis’ amongst young people

Image sharing website Instagram has beaten YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter all of its social media compatriots in one unwanted category after it was named as the ‘worst for young mental health’ in a new poll.

Overseen by The Royal Society for Public Health the study saw 1,479 young people aged between 14-24 quizzed on which sites had engendered the most negative effect on the health and well-being of their users, scoring each on a range of categories such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.

This found that YouTube had the most positive impact, followed by Twitter and Facebook, with Snapchat and Instagram bringing up the rear.

In its report the RSPH said that its findings should serve as a wake-up call to providers as to how extended social media use can aggravate psychological problems by ‘fueling a mental health crisis’.

Whilst highlighting the potential pitfalls of the technology the RSPH also acknowledged that such sites could be used as a force for good, but that far more effort needed to be invested in policing to flag up problem users.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, said: "It is interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being - both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people."

It is calculated that up to 90% of young people are now social media users when many are at particular risk of undue influence during their formative years, exacerbating depressive conditions.

Public health professionals are calling for a three-point plan to be enacted to head-off these trends; including pop-up warnings when people overuse social media; actively identifying users who may have a problem and ‘discreetly’ signposting support and tagging images which have been digitally manipulated.

Earlier this month Facebook was forced to deny allegations that it let brands target teens based on psychological insights.

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John Glenday

John Glenday is responsible for compiling The Drum's daily morning bulletin and ensuring that overnight breaking news is covered while you're still brushing your teeth. Can also make a mean cup of tea.

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