A study carried out by Soul Analyse has found that a fifth of GB adults experience mental health issues directly as a result of using social media.
2,004 GB adults – 937 men and 1,067 women – were asked about their social media behaviour, and feelings surrounding it.
The study revealed that 20% of adults felt depressed or anxious when using social media platforms.
When looking at different age ranges, the results indicate that younger people are more at risk of being negatively affected. More than 3 in 10 (31%) 18-24-year-olds said they felt anxious or depressed when using social media, and 58% said that social media made them more likely to notice their flaws.
The survey also found a correlation between picture filters and mental health. Of the people who said they felt anxious or depressed, 34% of those said they had filtered photos of themselves, compared with just 15% of those who stated they felt empowered when using social media.
“With the invasion of filters, the pictures we see online are not representative of reality and it can be difficult to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not. This is no doubt causing body image issues, especially among young people,” said Stephanie Dunleavy, Co-Founder of Soul Analyse. “The research shows that people are turning to filters to change the way they look but instead of fixing the problem, this is just going to give them more unrealistic standards to live up to. I believe the answer lies in changing the way we feel about ourselves through self-acceptance, rather than changing the way our body looks.”
The research revealed that SnapChat is the biggest culprit for negatively affecting the way people feel about themselves. More than a third (34%) of respondents who use the multimedia messaging app said they felt less confident about their body as a result of using social media. Instagram was not far behind with 28%, Twitter 24%, whereas Facebook was 21%.
The survey discovered a link between mental health and comparing lives to others online. Of those who admitted to comparing themselves to celebrities and influencers, 45% said they felt anxious or depressed. 72% of people who cited they had compared themselves to celebrities and influencers said that they noticed their flaws more, and a huge 81% said they felt pressure to improve their appearance.
When asked about comparing themselves to friends, the study found that the majority of those who did, felt more negatively towards their body: 60% of respondents said they felt pressure to improve their appearance and 56% said they noticed their flaws more.
Dunleavy continued: “The survey results provide a snapshot view of how harmful social media can be. We have to acknowledge the fact that these hugely popular platforms are potentially very damaging to people’s mental health. Online influencers have a moral responsibility here, particularly when it comes to impressionable minds; the research shows that young people feel a lot worse about themselves when they look at celebrities and influencers online, and this needs to be addressed.”