Howdoes social media affect mental health?Social media is “websites and applications that enable users to createand share content or to participate in social networking”1. Overrecent years social media has grown rapidly and changed the way in which wecommunicate and interact with people all over the world. Mental health is “ouremotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel,and act”2. Mentalhealth is a huge issue currently and among teenagers’ mental health issues suchas depression and anxiety have increased by up to 70% in the past 25 years3.
Ichose this question as social media is something that I use daily, and at timesI feel as if it has a negative impact on my own mental health so I wanted toexplore social media’s effects on mental health.UKA report written by Emily Frith, in June 2017 looks at social media andmental health in children and young adults in the UK. “On average in 2016,16-24 year olds report spending 29 hours browsing the internet each week”4. Thesestatistics from the report show the shocking amount of time that young adultsspend online. The use of social media is also very damaging for teenagers’self-esteem and body image. With the rise of ‘Instagram’ came an “abundance ofidealised images of beauty”. The constant bombardment of these high beautystandards takes a toll on young people’s self-esteem and has a drastic effecton their wellbeing.
Some statistics to support this point show that “Nearlyhalf of girls have tried to lose weight by the age of 17 and a third of boyshave felt under pressure to be muscly” and also a shocking 58% of teenagerssaid at some point they have felt “jealous, negative or insecure” just becauseof social media.5These statistics are from Sky News and were published in May 2017, so are veryrecent and Sky News is viewed as quite a reliable source. However, the report byFrith also acknowledges that social media can have a “positive impact”. Thebenefits of social media are that it allows for “increasing social connections”and also “enables teenagers to develop their identities.”From these two articles, we learn thatsocial media has had a huge impact on young people’s self-esteem and bodyconfidence. The ever-perfecting standards seemingly set for social media users,knocks and damages confidence daily leaving users feeling depressed andinsecure. The report also looks at responses to this issue, in particular theUK Government and what they are doing to help. In September 2014, to battleonline safety concerns the government “introduced age-appropriate lessons on e-safety across allstages of the National Curriculum”.
This includes teaching children how to usethe internet “safely and respectfully”, how to keep personal information”private” and also if they have any concerns where to go for help. The first report is written by EmilyFrith who is the Director of Mental Health, and the report was commissioned bythe Education Policy Institute. Frith has written many other reports onchildren and mental health and this leads us to believe that she is wellinformed on what she is writing about. I regard this report as reliable as itis a recent source (June 2017) and the Education Policy Institute claims to be”an independent, impartial and evidence based research institute”. The reportnot only looks at negative impacts of social media but makes a point to spotthe positive implications it can have, this makes the report representative ofsocial media as not all suffer with bad experiences on there.RSPH (Royal Society forPublic Health) and Young Health movement are campaigning for the government totake further action. Their suggestions include “social media platforms toidentify users who could be suffering from mental health by their posts” and”social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitallymanipulated”6 (taken from their full report titled #StatusOfMind).Shirley Cramer (chief executive of RSPH) said that social media is”intrinsically linked to mental health”.
In the UK, we can see that the rise ofmental health issues, through social media, is becoming increasingly recognisedand steps are being taken to change the repercussions that social media canbring about for mental wellbeing. The RSPH is an independent charity so isreliable, and as their aim as a charity is the “improvement of the public’shealth and wellbeing” they will be knowledgeable on mental health so theirreport should be trustworthy.SwedenSweden is ranked the 10thhappiest country in the world7by CNBC. In Sweden, there is an officially approved mental health policy (2010)which includes “timeline for implementation of the mental health plan” and”Integration of mental health services into primary care”8.This shows how the government are taking action to help mental health problems,even though it is a few years old.
For males, the suicide rates are 18.1% per100,000 and for females it is 8.3% per population so there still is room forimprovement, however these figures are from 2011 so are outdated and notreliable.
However, when looking at the suicide rates for 2017 male suicide hasdecreased to 17.6% per 100,000 and decreased for females again to 7.6% per100,000.9The facts that I have usedcame from WHO (World Health Organisation), it is “a specialised agency of theUnited Nations that is concerned with international public health”10.I would regard WHO as a reliable source, as they’re a trusted organisation andprovide information without bias. However, the information that I accessed wasnot recent (2011) so will not be showing the correct information for now, butafter another look it was easy to find more recent date data.
The report that Idid look at however focused more on the mental health services in general forexample the facilities, workforce and information systems, rather thanstatistics of mental health. It also did not address the question that am Itrying to answer, so this limited the report for me.Social media use in Sweden hasbeen on the rise over the past few years, and now “82percent use the internet daily”11.Mobile phones are commonly used in Sweden and “78 percent of the populationuses the internet via mobile phone” and by the age of 8 around 55% already havetheir own smartphone. The internet and social media are hugely popular inchildren and youth, especially with girls, “56 percent of girls are daily userscompared to 42 percent of boys in the same age”. It is also reported that it isteen girls who have the most “trouble” online, “28 percent of girls have beenvictims of bullying, compared to 15 percent of the boys”.
The article I used for this data camefrom the ‘iiS’ and was published in November 2016, so the information providedshould be relatively up to date. The article was the yearly report that shows”change and development” in the usage of internet of the Swedish population.The ‘iiS’ is an “independent public-service organization that acts to ensurethe positive development of the internet”12.I would treat this source as credible as it is an independent source, so willoffer unbiased thoughts and facts that are correct as they specialise in theinternet field.From the information that I have gathered, I cansee that although Sweden is known for being one of the happiest countries italso suffers with mental health issues. We can see from the information that Ilooked at that suicide rates did decrease from 2011-2017. During this time,social media really increased in popularity and if it did have a detrimentaleffect on mental health then we would have expected an increase in suiciderates.
However, we don’t know how many people are silently suffering withmental health problems due to the increase of social media.AustraliaAustralia is another country that is a “prolific”13social media user. As of September 2017, it is reported that Facebook has areported 15,000,000 monthly active Australian users, this means that”approximately 7 in 10 Australians use Facebook”. 50% of the country log in anduse social media every day.
This data is extremely up to date (September 2017)so can be regarded as reliable as it is recent.A report by the Sternberg Clinic looks at “socialmedia and its impact on mental health”14.A piece of research was carried out and it was “The social and psychologicalimpact of online social networking”.
It involved 1800 Australians, and the resultsshowed that 51% visited social media sites several times a day and felt a “need”to log on. The research carried out also makes sure to highlight the positiveimplications that social media can have on people. “53% foundthat social networking sites increased their contact with friends and family”,this shows how social media can be a good addition to people’s lives and theresearch showed that this increased communication “lead to an improvement inself-esteem and mental health”. However, as we have seen previously socialmedia can leave people with a negative experience as 28% said they experienced”bullying” or “unwanted contact”. This article further goes on to look at themore positive aspects of social media again, this time in teenagers in particular.Marilyn price-Mitchell wrote about her findings in “Inside the digital lives ofteens”, and reported that apparently teens have very positive experiences onsocial media.
She wrote that the positive effects of social media include”increased confidence, improved social interactivity, more sympathy, lessdepression, less shyness and increased popularity”, and only 5% said they had anegative experience. These findings are quite the opposite as to what is beingreported in the UK. This articleshows how social media doesn’t have to have negative impacts, and is verydifferent to other articles that I have looked at as it shows a new viewpoint.
The article is from Sternberg Clinic located in Australia, which is a”multidisciplinary service” which offers a “wide variety” of therapies to helpthose suffering with mental illnesses. The centre has psychologists, psychiatrists,social workers and other health professionals so its information should befactually correct. It is extremely up to date information as was publishedDecember 2017, and is a credible source as it looks at both sides of the argument. ConclusionAt thebeginning of this essay I thought that although many people enjoy social mediaand use it correctly and get lots out of it, there is also a dark side tosocial media where many people’s mental health can suffer. I have seen throughthe three points of views that I have looked at that the impacts of socialmedia really differ from country to country. In the UK, the findings are mainlynegative and they show the drawbacks that social networking can have, but nowthe government are trying to take action. Sweden, although known as one of thehappiest countries, does struggle with mental health issues, whether they aredirectly related or not to social media remains unclear for me, but Sweden ismaking sure it tries to improve mental health for its citizens. The informationI looked at for Australia was a real eye opener for me, and it highlighted tome how beneficial social media can be for so many people in improving theirmental wellbeing.
So, at the end of this essay my opinion has changed fromviewing social media as something to be feared, as to something that is usefuland fun for so many. Obviously, it comes with its dangers and many haven’t hadthe best experience which has affected their mental health, but I believe thatthe advantages, e.g. connect to people all over the world, fun and enjoyment,instant communication and opportunities15, outweighany possible disadvantages.