Instagram has been rated the most damaging social media platform for young people’s mental health in a new study out of the U.K.
After Instagram, the next low-scoring platform was Snapchat, followed by Facebook, Twitter and then YouTube, which was ranked the healthiest network for youth mental health and wellbeing.
The research, conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement and published on Friday, surveyed 1,479 people in the U.K. between the ages of 14 and 24 in early 2017.
The participants were asked to rate the impacts of the five social media platforms on different aspects of their wellbeing such as, sleep, depression, self-identity, body image, loneliness, bullying, anxiety and fear of missing out (or FOMO as it’s often called).
According to the findings, Instagram was given low scores in seven categories for its effect on young people’s body image, sleep, bullying, anxiety, depression, loneliness and FOMO.
The photo-sharing networking site was rated highly for its promotion of self-expression, self-identity and emotional support, however.
The most positively-viewed service, YouTube, scored poorly for its impact on the respondents’ sleep, but did well in nine other categories including emotional support, depression, loneliness, self-expression and awareness of other people’s health experience.
The paper’s authors point to past studies that have raised concerns about the detrimental effects of social media on developing minds to justify the importance for this kind of research.
“The way young people communicate and share with each other has changed,” the study states. “With social media being such a new phenomenon, the exact effect it is having on the mental health, emotional wellbeing and physiology of young people is currently unclear.”
According to the study, 91 per cent of the survey’s participants use the internet for social networking and that social media has been called more addictive than cigarettes.
The researchers also point to increasing rates of anxiety and depression in youth (up by 70 per cent in the past 25 years) and how networking sites have been linked to it.
Call for action:
The two health organizations involved in the study also called for a number measures to protect young users from the potentially harmful effects of social media.
Some of the demands include:
– Pop-up warning messages to alert users of their heavy usage
– Including a watermark to identify photos that have been digitally manipulated
– More education in schools on the effects of social media
– Creation of social media platforms to identify users who may be suffering from mental health problems and directing them to support resources
– More research into the impact of social media on young people’s mental health