RSPH report reveals social media effect on mental health

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM) have published a new report, examining the effects of social media on young people’s health, with instagram as ranked worst for inspiring negative feelings.

The research included a league table of social media platforms according to their impact on young people’s mental health. YouTube came top of the table as the most positive, while Instagram and Snapchat came last as the most detrimental to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

RSPH and YHM have called on the next government and social media companies to help promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, whilst mitigating the potential negatives.

The report’s recommendations include: introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media – seven in 10 (71 per cent) young people surveyed by RSPH support this recommendation social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts, and discretely signpost to support – four in five (80 per cent) young people support; and social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated – more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of young people support.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive, 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. Through our Young Health Movement, young people have told us that social media has had both a positive and negative impact on their mental health. 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. 

“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. We want to promote and encourage the many positive aspects of networking platforms and avoid a situation that leads to social media psychosis which may blight the lives of our young people.”

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