By Oliver Thompson
Social media usage is linked to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating issues and increased suicide risk warn researchers.
A study by the University of Missouri found that regularly using Facebook could lead to symptoms of depressions as the site can trigger feelings of envy in the user.
Professor Margaret Duffy commented:
“Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives,
“But if it’s used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship – things that cause envy among users – use of the site can lead to feelings of depression”
Excessive mobile phone use particularly at night can cause depression and unhappiness and people who spend the night on social media are more likely to suffer from mood problems such as neuroticism and bipolar disorder – leaving people rate themselves as less happy.
It was also concluded that social media does not affect all people equally, as the researchers confirmed that some individuals may be more susceptible to negative aspects than others.
The positive effects
On a positive note, the same study found that people who use the platform primarily to connect with others do not experience the negative effects, Psychology today reported:
“When not triggering feelings of envy, the study shows, Facebook could be a good resource and have positive effects on well-being”
Contary to popular belief there is also evidence that social media can benefit people already dealing with mental health issues by helping them develop online communities to allow a source of emotional support.
Professor John Powell, a public health researcher at Oxford University commented:
“Social media is invaluable for people with health conditions to know that they are not alone, that there are other people who have gone through this and got better.”
Research therefore suggests that it is how social media is used to determine if it is likely to have a positive or negative impact on well-being. Active rather than passive social media can be benficial according to researchers at the University of Melbourne “Although browsing Instagram has been associated with increased depression, talking to others online increases life satisfaction,
” they say.
Bullying at a young age?
For younger people (under the age of 25) social media appears to have an even more serious effect.
A study from UK’s media regulator has found that bullying of young people online has significantly grown. The report concluded that 12 to 15-year-olds who have reported being bullied on social media has nearly doubled from 6% to 11%.
The rise of popularity in platforms such as Instagram, which focuses on people’s physical appearance are reported to be “contributing to the generation of young people with body image and body confidence issues.”
Forbes commented on the issues:
” It has turned out that the more time people spent on these sites, the more socially isolated they perceived themselves to be. And perceived social isolation is one of the worst things for us, mentally and physically,”
In addition there is also concern at young people viewing disturbing content online, specifically related to self-harm, in which suicide is now the leading cause of death among under 20s in the UK.
New treatments have emerged to tackle the problems associated with increased social media use and ‘internet addiction’
In the US, a 28-day programme called Reboot specifically targets 11 to 17-year-olds using diagnostic therapy and psychotherapy to help those who have addictions that include online gaming, social media, pornography and sexting, with the aim to escape the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression”