Instagram the most damaging social media platform for young people’s mental health, study says

Photo-sharing app owned by Facebook found most likely to make young people feel depressed, anxious and lonely, ahead of Snapchat, in British survey

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 6:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 5:45pm

Instagram is the most damaging social media platform when it comes to young people’s mental health, new research suggests.

The photo-sharing app, which is owned by Facebook and has 700 million users worldwide, is considered the social media platform most likely to cause young people to feel depressed, anxious and lonely, according to a new UK-wide study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

In a survey of almost 1,500 Britons aged 14 to 24, the RSPH found that young people were most likely to associate Instagram with negative attributes and low self-esteem, resulting in poor body image and lack of sleep.

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Snapchat, the ephemeral photo messaging app, was also seen as a close contender, and most likely to leave users feeling bullied or left out by their peers.

“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,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, which conducted the #StatusOfMind report in collaboration with the Young Health Movement.

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Instagram said that it remains dedicated to keeping the platform a “safe and supportive place” for users, adding that it is working closely with experts to enhance the app to provide mental health support.

“Keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, is our top priority – particularly when it comes to young people,” said Michelle Napchan, Instagram head of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“That’s why we work in partnership with experts to give people the tools and information they need while using the app, including how to report content, get support for a friend they are worried about, or directly contact an expert to ask for advice on an issue they may be struggling with.”

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The app otherwise scored well for enabling self-expression and self-identity when assessed against 14 statements relating to health and well-being.