Do you scroll through your Instagram feed feeling like you’ll never be as attractive and talented as other people? You’re not alone.
A new study from the Royal Society for Public Health in London and its Young Health Movement reveals that Instagram is the “most detrimental” social media platform for young people’s mental health and wellbeing. In February, the organization surveyed nearly 1,500 young people between the ages of 14 and 24, asking them to score how each of the five most popular social media platforms impact their feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety, their sleep, body image, real-world relationships, ability to express their feelings, define who they are, and more.
YouTube was the only platform out of the five that had a “net positive” impact on teens’ wellbeing. Twitter came in second, followed by Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
“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,” RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer said in a statement. “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 RSPH is now calling for social media companies to introduce “heavy usage” warnings on their platforms, encouraging users to take a break after a certain period of time. The organization also wants social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been “digitally manipulated,” and identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems, based on their posts, and discreetly offer them support. RSPH also called on schools to start teaching their students about safe social media use.
The RSPH’s report largely corroborates a separate study released in March by the University of Pittsburgh, which found that the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to feel isolated.
In March, Facebook integrated its suicide-prevention tools into Live, so if you’re watching a broadcast and someone expresses suicidal thoughts, you can report the video and get the person help. Last year, it expanded its suicide-prevention tools to all languages supported by Facebook.