Instagram has been rated the most harmful social media platform for young people’s mental health by a new study.
Conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health, the study asked 1,500 young people aged between 14 and 24 from across the UK about the impact of various social media platforms.
The respondents scored companies like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook on 14 “wellbeing-related issues” categories including anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.
Instagram was rated the worst for factors like body image, FoMO, bullying and sleep, with Snapchat scoring similarly.
The best-rated platform was YouTube, which scored well on categories like awareness, self-expression, community building and self-identity.
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.”
The group is calling for the social media platforms to better publicise information on the dangers of excessive use, as well as highlighting when photos have been digitally manipulated.
Speaking to The Guardian, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.
“We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media – good and bad – to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world.
“There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”
Check out the full report here.