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Researchers rank Instagram as worst social media app for young people’s mental health

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been a boon for most people. They allow users to connect with each other while also enjoying access to a number of extra features at the same time. However, not all of them are beneficial. In fact, many of them can be harmful to one’s mental health.

Researchers from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), in cooperation with the Young Health Movement (YHM), recently wrapped up a report that focuses on the world’s biggest social media sites, and they’re offering up a horrifying conclusion. It’s that all of the social media sites, on some level, are simply terrible for people’s mental health, specifically for the youth. And when pitted against one another, the photo-sharing social media app Instagram ranked worst of all for young people’s mental well-being.

The report put together by the RSPH and the YHM, which is titled #StatusOfMind, is based on a survey of almost 1,500 young people, aged 14-24, from across the U.K. some time in early 2017. The survey simply asked the participants to score how each of the listed social media platforms they used affected them as far as 14 specified health- and well-being-related issues were concerned. (Related: Social media is a “disease,” and Mark Zuckerberg a CANCER on society.)

The 14 health- and well-being-related issues are as follows:

  1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
  2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
  3. Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends)
  4. Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness or unease)
  5. Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy)
  6. Loneliness (feelings of being all on your own)
  7. Sleep (quality and amount of sleep)
  8. Self-expression (the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas)
  9. Self-identity (ability to define who you are)
  10. Body image (how you feel about how you look)
  11. Real world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people)
  12. Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people)
  13. Bullying (threatening or abusive behavior towards you)
  14. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)

It is based on these issues and the subsequent ratings that the survey participants gave the researchers that a short unofficial “worst social media platform for young people’s mental health” list was created. And based on the average scores, it came out that YouTube places ahead of the likes of Facebook and Instagram. The top five, ranked in order of best to worst, are:

  1. YouTube
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. Snapchat
  5. Instagram

According to Shirley Cramer CBE, the Chief Executive of the RSPH, social media plays a key role in the lives of impressionable youths. “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,” she explained. “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.”

And as the results of their survey clearly showed, Instagram as well as Snapchat both ranked as the worst sites for mental health and well-being. This should be no surprise since they are both image-focused and could be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in the youth, according to the RSPH.

There is one possible solution to this problem, however. Cramer notes that as the potential harms from heavy use of social media become more and more evident, there need to be checks and balances put in place to help individuals cope. “We want to promote and encourage the many positive aspects of networking platforms and avoid a situation that leads to social media psychosis,” she said, “which may blight the lives of our young people.”

Read more about the perils of social media over-use at

Sources include:

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