How Social Media can Affect your Health

Back to blog

The volume of people interacting on social media continues to grow, as the number of users worldwide topped 2.34 billion in 2016. However, whilst many people use it on a daily basis to interact with friends and portray their daily life, diet and exercise regimes, the effects on people’s mental health and wellbeing is fast becoming a problem, particularly to the young and vulnerable.

A recent survey found that Instagram is one of the most harmful platforms on young people’s health. The survey found that social media is strengthening bullying, anxiety, depression, loneliness and body image worries. Instagram was rated badly for half of the measures, however, it is such a large part of society it is hard to avoid.

It is no wonder that the prevalence of mental health problems in young people is on the rise. Rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in teenagers in the last 25 years, whilst hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders have almost doubled in the last three years alone. Many believe this is because of the impact of social media and the constant pressure being put on people to appear attractive and in shape. This is having a harsh affect as many do not realise that social media is only a chosen representation of people’s lives and is often touched up with Photoshop or applied filters. It is believed that youngsters who spend more than two hours a day on social media platforms are more susceptible to mental health problems.

Younger people in particular, spend their days effectively living the life of their idols through social media accounts, and it is this that convinces them to constantly compare themselves. The ‘compare and despair’ attitude is rife and is linked to depression and anxiety. According to the Mental Health Foundation, nearly one in 10 children and young people are affected by a mental health problem.

Seeing the success and standard of life of others on social media can lead to people feeling disappointed in themselves and their own successes. There will always be someone that is more confident, more successful and richer than you are but what many forget is that equally there are so many more in a worse position than you. With so much anger and upset in the world, it is important to not let someone who has filtered a picture to make them look better, upset you.

Social media is also a prime place for cyber bullying – a form of bullying which is growing rapidly and responsible for many young people’s deteriorating health and wellbeing. It is hard to avoid in a growing digital world, but it is how we teach those youngsters to deal with these pressures that will help them. Encouraging your children, or those that you know, to talk about how they’re feeling will be a great help. Statistics showing the number of counselling sessions provided for concerns like low self-esteem, bullying or self-harm topped 80,000 per year.

To help combat this problem, public health experts are asking for measures to be put in place by the social media companies to subtly help those who may be suffering a mental health problem. One example of this is highlighting when adverts have been digitally manipulated and indicating how much time they have spent online.

This week is Samaritans awareness week, and this is a great place to start if anyone feels like they need someone to talk to. They offer a safe and confidential place to talk whenever you like about whatever issues you have and help you make the decisions that are right for you.

Alternatively, if you are a Health Shield Health Cash Plan member, you have access to counselling support online and face-to-face via mywellness.