Study: Instagram Damages Young People’s Mental Health

Study: Instagram Damages Young People’s Mental Health
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Of all the social media sites young people frequent on the Internet, Instagram is the worst for their mental health, according to a report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the U.K. [1]

Nearly 1,500 young people aged 14 to 24 were surveyed for the #StatusofMind study. Researchers wanted to find out how certain social media platforms affect psychological health issues, such as anxiety, depression, self-identity, and body issues.

Scored for These 14 Health and Well-Being Issues:

  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) [2]

Natural Society

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter were all found to negatively affect young people’s mental well-being; and Instagram led the pack. YouTube was found to have the most positive effect.

Read: If You Have Depression, Do Your Instagram Photos Show It?

Natural Society

More than 700 million people use Instagram, an app that allows people to share videos and images. Matt Keracher, author of the report, said the researchers discovered that Instagram influences young women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality.” [1]

Natural Society

One female respondent commented on the survey:

“Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect.'” [1]

Natural Society

In a statement, Shirley Cramer, CEO of RSPH, pointed out that social media has such a grip on young people, it has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.

“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.

As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and well-being.” [2]

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Read: More Than Half of U.S. Kids Are Addicted to Technology

Public health experts are calling for Instagram and other social media platforms to introduce a series of checks and measures aimed at preventing mental health problems and identifying users who may be struggling, including:

  • Pop-ups telling people that they’ve been using social media for a long time. About 70% of the young people surveyed support this idea.
  • Social media platforms that identify users with potential mental health issues and discreetly signpost places where they can get support.
  • Platforms that highlight when photos have been digitally altered. For example, celebrities, fashion brands, and advertising organizations could opt to have a voluntary code that would let a small icon be displayed on digitally manipulated photos. [3]


[1] CNN

[2] Business Insider

[3] BBC News