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Instagram ‘not good’ for youth mental health

Instagram is rated as the worst social media platform when it comes to its impact on young people’s mental health, a UK based snapshot survey suggests.

The poll asked 1,479 people aged 14-24 to score popular apps on issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.  Instagram said keeping the platform a safe and supportive place for young people was a top priority. Mental health charities urged companies to act to increase users’ safety.

The Royal Society for Public Health study says social platforms should flag up heavy social media use and identify users with mental health issues.

Instagram says it provides tools and information on how to cope with bullying and warns users before they view certain content.

The RSPH report says that “social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis” in young people.

However, it can also be used as a tool for good, the report said. Instagram, for example, was found to have a positive effect on self-expression and self-identity. About 90% of young people use social media – more than any other age group – so they are particularly vulnerable to its effects, although it is not clear what these are on current evidence.

The online survey asked participants a series of questions about whether YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter had an impact on their health and well-being. Participants were asked to score each platform on 14 health and well-being issues.

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 report also recommends that NHS England comes up with a vetting scheme for health and well-being information so young people are better able to judge whether information is trustworthy.