Instagram is the worst social media app for young people’s mental health, CNN reports.
The study, conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom, sought to discover how social media platforms affect young people, their health, and overall well-being. In particular, researchers focused on how these apps impact anxiety, depression, self-identity, and body image.
This study – called #StatusofMind – observed 1,500 people aged from 14 to 24.
Results showed that Instagram is the worst app for the mental health and well-being of young people, with Snapchat at a close second. Other apps that negatively affect young people include Facebook and Twitter.
YouTube was the only app found to have a positive impact.
According to the study, Instagram is particularly unhealthy amongst young women. This app, which shares pictures and occasionally videos exclusively, causes young women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality,” study author Marr Keracher said.
An anonymous female participant to the study added, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect.’”
Although there are aspects of these apps that negatively impact the mental health of young people, the study also notes that these social media platforms do provide positive outlets for young people to express themselves, self-identify, and engage.
The Royal Society for Public Health has called for these mediums to decrease their negative impact by letting users know when images have been edited or enhanced.
“We’re not asking these platforms to ban Photoshop or filters but rather to let people know when images have been altered so that users don’t take the images on face value as real,” Keracher said.
The study also noted a correlation between mental health and time spent on social media. According to the report, participants who reported spending two or more hours a day on social media were more likely to also report psychological distress.
The society suggests social media platforms also create warnings to let users know when they have been online too long.
Sir Simon Wessely, president of the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, believes education and awareness are paramount.
“I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has many benefits as it does negatives,” he said. “We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media – good and bad – to prepare them for an increasingly digitized world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”