Facebook’s photo-sharing platform Instagram is the worst social media network in terms of its impact on the mental health of young people, according to a survey. The survey found that platforms that are supposed to assist young people in connecting with each other may actually be fueling a mental health crisis.

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Photo by geralt (Pixabay)

Instagram may not be good for your mental health

According to a U.K.-wide study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), Instagram is most likely to cause young people feel depressed, lonely and anxious. RSPH conducted the survey of 1,479 youngsters aged 14 to 24 in collaboration with the Young Health Movement (YHM), reports CNBC.

According to the survey, the photo-sharing app, which has over 700 million users around the world, is the most damaging social media platform when it comes to mental health. On the other hand, the #StatusofMind survey found that the photo-sharing platform was positive in terms of self-identity and self-expression, notes the Telegraph.

The respondents were asked to score how the different social networking sites they use impact issues like access to expert information, emotional support, anxiety, depression, sleep, self-expression, body image, community building and bullying. Of the 14 measures, Instagram was rated badly on seven of them: impact on body image, sleep, fear of bullying, missing out, and feelings of depression, loneliness and anxiety.

Google’s YouTube won the most positive rating, followed by Twitter and Facebook. YouTube was ranked well in nine other categories, but it failed for its impact on sleep. Both Facebook and Twitter scored well on self-expression and community building, but they were found to lead to bullying and depression. Instagram’s arch-rival Snapchat was a close contender to Instagram and was ranked second worst for negatively impacting users. The photo-messaging app was likely to leave users feeling lonely, left out or bullied by their peers, the survey found.

The connection between social media and health issues

RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer said, “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.”

Cramer said that social media is described as more addictive than alcohol and cigarettes, and it has now gotten into the lives of young people so deeply that it is not possible anymore to ignore it when talking about mental health issues. The BBC notes that over 90% of young people use social media currently, which is more than any other age group, so they are more vulnerable to its effects as well.

Michelle Napchan, Instagram’s EMEA head of policy, said, “Keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, is our top priority — particularly when it comes to young people.”

The social platform added that it constantly works with experts to enhance the app by offering tools and information to support users’ mental health. Such tools include education on how to report content, how to directly contact an expert for advice on an issue, how to get support for a friend, etc.