Instagram found to be the worst social media platform for mental health

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It is hardly surprising then that a new study from The Royal Society for Public Health has found that Instagram is the worst of all the social media apps when it comes to negatively impacting on mental health.

A United Kingdom study of 1,479 people aged 14 to 24 found that the photo-sharing platform was damaging to young people's body image, "fear of missing out" and contributed to anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Those surveyed were asked to rate five popular social platforms - YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram - by 14 points to determine their influence on young people's health and wellbeing.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young people's mental wellbeing, a survey of nearly 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people's feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

Instagram's website says it has more than 600 million active monthly users.

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"It might help improve psycho-education, increase self- awareness of mental health and act as a preventative measure".

The young people taking part were asked to consider issues including emotional support, depression, sleep, self-expression, anxiety, body image, community building and bullying.

The RSPH is calling for the introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media: 'The social media platform would track usage and provide the user with a pop-up warning when they breach a set level of usage deemed potentially harmful'.

In a survey of nearly 1,500 Britons aged 14 to 24, the RSPH found that young people were most likely to associate Instagram with negative attributes and low self-esteem, resulting in poor body image and lack of sleep.

"Platforms that are supposed to help young people connect with each other may actually be fueling a mental health crisis", Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH noted in the report.

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Another said they were spending so much time on the sites they were losing out on sleep, their homework and time with friends and family. They also want to introduce special icons or watermarks to highlight digitally-edited photos to prevent users from feeling bad about their appearance.

The app otherwise scored well for enabling self-expression and self-identity when assessed against 14 statements relating to health and well-being.

According to the study, 91 per cent of the survey's participants use the internet for social networking and that social media has been called more addictive than cigarettes.

"But it's also important to recognise that simply "protecting" young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution".

Michelle Napchan, Instagram 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".

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