19th May 2017
 

A UK survey has suggested that Instagram is the worst social media platform in relation to its impact on the mental health of young people.

1,479 people aged between 14-24 were asked to rate social media apps on their impact on issues such as anxiety, loneliness, depression, body image and bullying.

The company have said that their priority remains ensuring that Instagram was a safe and supportive space for young people.

Instagram also says that there are tools and information provided for users, particularly to help with bullying and also issues warnings for certain content.

Social media sites should flag excessive use to identify those vulnerable to mental health issues says The Royal Society for Public Health.

The report from the RSPH says that “social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis” among young people, however it can also be used as a tool for good.

The report also says that Instagram can have a positive effect on self-identity among young people, and was encouraging them to explore self-expression.

More young people use social media than any other age group, with 90 per cent of young people active across the various platforms. As a result, they are considered to be particularly vulnerable to its effects.

Participants in the survey were asked as series of questions regarding the impact that Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram had on their health and well-being.

Each platform was scored on 14 separate issues.

These rating found that YouTube had the most positive effect on mental health, followed by Twitter and then Facebook. Overall, Snapchat and Instagram received the lowest scores.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, said: “It is interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

Ms Cramer added: “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.”

Tom Madders, from mental health charity YoungMinds, said the recommendations could help many young people.

“Increasing safety within social media platforms is an important step and one we urge Instagram and other sites to act upon.

“But it’s also important to recognise that simply ‘protecting’ young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution.”

He said young people needed to understand the risks of how they behaved online and should be taught how to respond to “harmful content that slips through filters”.