If you or someone you love is hooked on Instagram, you might want to listen up. The Facebook-owned photo social network, used by more than 700 million people, was just ranked as “the most detrimental” to the mental health of young adults. YouTube was ranked the best followed by Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM) surveyed nearly 1,500 young adults, ages 14 to 24, about the impact of major social media platforms on their mental health. In particular, participants were asked about the following areas:
- Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
- Access to expert health information you know you can trust
- Emotional support
- Body image
- Real world relationships
- Community building
- FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
Many participants blamed Instagram’s signature photo-filtering feature for making them feel bad about their own lives and bodies and, as a result, negatively influencing their body image and sleep. A pervasive sense of FOMO was also noted.
The study also found that social media was often described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol and that cycling through Instagram for more than two hours per day led to more mental health issues, including increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep.
“Platforms that are supposed to help young people connect with each other may actually be fueling a mental health crisis,” noted the report.
As a result, the RSPH is recommending pop-up “heavy usage” warnings. “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 well-being,” RSPH President Shirley Cramer told BBC.
Researchers also noted the positive sides of social media, especially when it comes to receiving support during tough times. “Everyday people from all over the world use Instagram to share their own mental health journey and get support from the community. For those struggling with mental health issues, we want them to be able to access support on Instagram when and where they need it,” said Instagram’s head of policy Michelle Napchan in an interview with BBC.
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