Young people who use social media (such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for more than two hours each day are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress, according to a recent report.
The ‘#StatusOfMindSocial media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing’ report examines the impact of social media on the health of young people, looking at both positive and negative aspects.
Young people are the biggest users of social media, with 91% of 18-24 year olds using the internet for social media, compared to 51% of 55-64 year olds and just 23% of people over the age of 65.
The report also suggests that social media can have a negative effect on mental health with young people feeling isolated or like they are missing out when they are ‘seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out’, leading them to ‘compare’ and ‘despair’. In addition, the use of heavily photo-shopped or edited photographs can cause young people to make unfair comparisons about themselves, feeding feelings of anxiety and inadequacy.
Sleep is strongly linked with mental health, and many studies have reported associations between social media use and poor sleep quality. This usually occurs when people use social media on their phones around bedtime, as the lights from phones can block ‘natural processes in the brain that trigger feelings of sleepiness’ and the release of melatonin – the sleep hormone.
However, social media can improve the access young people have to other people’s experiences of ill health, as well as expert advice. Young people who frequently use social media also report being ’emotionally supported through their contacts.’