Instagram ranked worst for young people’s mental health, report finds

03 July 2017

A survey looking at how social networking sites affect young people’s mental health has found most have more negative than positive effects – with Instagram ranked the most detrimental.

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The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the charity Young Health Movement surveyed 1500 14- to 24-year-olds with regard to five social media sites.

They were asked to score their impact on a list of 14 health and wellbeing issues including anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep, bullying, and fear of missing out.

Based on the ratings, Instagram was deemed to have the most negative effect, particularly on perceptions of body image, and for increasing the fear of missing out, and having a detrimental effect on sleep. It ranked more favourably in the areas of self-expression, self-identity and community building.

Snapchat was the second least positive platform, followed by Facebook, where the presence of bullying was highlighted. Twitter came second best in terms of the five social platforms, although it was still found to have more negative effects than positive ones.

YouTube was the only social media platform to have a largely positive effect on mental health, ranking highly for raising awareness, community building and self-expression.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the 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.’

Instagram said in a statement that keeping the platform a ‘safe and supportive place’ is its top priority.

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