Report Reveals Five Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Instagram Ranked as Worst Social Media for Mental Health

A recently released report, #StatusOfMind, reveals a growing trend in negative effects of social media on mental health, especially in adolescents.

With social media described as “more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol” there is growing concern about the effects of social media on mental well-being.

The top five negative effects of social media on mental health, especially in young users is a growing concern:

1. Anxiety and Depression

Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have risen 70% in the past 25 years.

Research suggests that young people who are heavy users of social media – spending more than two hours per day on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression).

Nearly 80,000 children and young people in the UK suffer from severe depression, with studies showing that increase use of social media is associated with increased odds of depression.

2. Inadequate Sleep

The use of social media is linked with an increase in inadequate sleep patterns that increase anxiety and depression.

Poor mental health can lead to poor sleep and poor sleep can lead to states of poor mental health.

Poor sleep is linked to a wide range of both physical and mental health conditions in adults including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke and depression.

3. Inadequate Body Image

Up to 9 in 10 teenage girls say they are unhappy with their body.

With 10 million photos uploaded to Facebook alone every hour, appearance-based comparisons online area almost endless.

Studies have shown that when young girls and women in their teens and early twenties view Facebook for only a short period of time, body image concerns are higher compared to non-users.

4. Cyber bullying

Bullying during childhood is a major risk factor for a number of issues including mental health, education and social relationships, with long-lasting effects often carried right through to adulthood.

Studies suggest that 7 out of 10 young people say they have experienced cyber bullying and 37 per cent of young people revealing they experience cyber bullying on a high-frequency basis.

Victims of bullying are more likely to experience low academic performance, depression, anxiety, self-harm, feelings of loneliness and changes in sleeping and eating patterns – all of which could alter the course of a young person’s life as they undertake important exams at school or university, and develop personally and socially.

5 Fear of Missing Out (FoMO)

The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) is a relatively new concept that is characterised by a constant need to be connected, so as not to miss out.

The sharing of photos and videos on social media means that young people are experiencing a practically endless stream of others’ experiences that can potentially fuel feelings that they are missing out on life – whilst others enjoy theirs – and that has been described as a ‘highlight reel’ of friends’ lives.

FoMO is associated with lower mood and lower life satisfaction as well as distress in the form of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

Facebook is the most commonly used social media platform with around 30 million UK users. Twitter comes in as the second most used with 15 million UK users. The next most popular platforms are Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat.

The Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement are calling for action from government, social media companies and policy makers to help promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, whilst mitigating the potential negatives.

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