Social media and anxiety concerns for young people

The impact of social media on the mental health of people aged 14-24 has been revealed in a study by the Royal Society for Public Health and Instagram was rated as the worst social media platform with issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image being mentioned by those polled.

The poll asked 1,479 people aged 14-24 to score popular apps on these issues and, based on these ratings, YouTube was considered to have the most positive impact on mental health, followed by Twitter and then Facebook. Snapchat and Instagram were given the lowest scores overall.

The RSPH study says social platforms should flag up heavy social media use and identify users with mental health issues.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, said: “It is 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.”

Instagram said keeping the platform a safe and supportive place for young people was a top priority. Michelle Napchan, Instagram head of policy, told the BBC: “Keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, is our top priority – particularly when it comes to young people.

“Every day people use Instagram to share their own mental health journey and get support from the community. For those struggling with mental health issues, we want them to be able to access support on Instagram when and where they need it.”

About 90% of young people use social media – more than any other age group – says the RSPH, adding that rates of anxiety and depression in the UK have increased by 70% in the last 25 years.

Supporting this, the National Council for Hypnotherapy says modern society and social media place great demands and responsibilities on people and their time, adding that about one in seven suffer from stress or anxiety at any time in the UK. While some people manage, more and more people are showing signs of over-anxiety, which leads to stress, which can make a significant impact on the quality of life and well being.

With more than 1,800 qualified clinical hypnotherapists across the UK, the NCH can offer help and non-invasive treatment to those who want to rid their lives of stress, anxiety and other similar issues.

An NCH hypnotherapist can help assess a person’s anxiety, identifying the root of stress or anxiety whether it is a situation, a physical issue, a past experience or a relationship. Then they will work with that person to establish a goal as to how they wish to feel, be, and things they would chose to do if free of anxiety.

“They will then work with you to reach your goals using a range of different techniques. Every therapist may use slightly different techniques, but working towards the same goal,” says the NCH, adding that, after hypnotherapy sessions people often feel more confident and more relaxed in situations that have previously been challenging.
“Many people say that they are calmer and that they have more clarity of thought – able to make decisions more easily. Those who have experienced side effects of anxiety such as insomnia, find that they are sleeping much better and as a result are able to work more effectively.”

Commenting on the RSPH survey, Tom Madders, from mental health charity YoungMinds, said: “Increasing safety within social media platforms is an important step and one we urge Instagram and other sites to act upon. But it’s also important to recognise that simply ‘protecting’ young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution.”