Instagram is the most damaging social network to young people's mental wellbeing, and causes feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, according to a survey of around 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds.
Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM) published the report, #StatusOfMind, which gave the five most popular social networks net average scores based on ratings provided by young people.
Among the five, only YouTube was found to have a positive impact. Snapchat was ranked the second most harmful platform, followed by Facebook.
The survey asked young people to score each of the social media platforms the used based on 14 health and wellbeing-related issues, which were identified by experts as the most significant.
According to the research, young people say four of the give most-used platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram — make their feelings of anxiety worse. The report says one in six young people will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, with rates of anxiety and depression increasing by 70 percent over the past 25 years.
The report notes that the visual nature of Instagram and Snapchat is the reason behind the ranking.
"It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people," Shirley Cramer CBE — chief executive of RSPH — said in a statement.
Laci Green, a health YouTuber with 1.5 million subscribers, says that social media has dramatically shifted how people socialise, communication and form relationships.
"Because platforms like Instagram and Facebook present highly curated versions of the people we know and the world around us, it is easy for our perspective of reality to become distorted," says Green.
RSPH is calling on social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated. The organisation is also calling for the introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media.