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Instagram is terrible for your mental health, study finds

A new study has confirmed what you likely already know: Instagram and other social media apps take a major toll on your mental health.

CNN reports that the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health published a new study on Friday called #StatusofMind that looked at how young people interact with social media apps. They surveyed people aged 14-23 about issues like anxiety, depression, and body image and determined trends from their answers.

Of the five social platforms studied — Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — Instagram was found to be the most detrimental to a young person’s mental health. The only platform to receive a net positive rating was YouTube, but it wasn’t by much; the toll the streaming video platform takes on sleep, body image, bullying, and fear of missing out (FOMO) offset positive results like community-building and self-expression.

“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,'” one survey respondent explained about the app, which was cited as having an adverse effect on anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep, body image, bullying, and FOMO.

The study also pointed out that people who are on social media frequently report higher levels of anxiety and other mental health issues. As a result, the group wants social media platforms — and Instagram especially — to implement features like pop-up warnings when a user bypasses a “set level of usage deemed potentially harmful. It is then up to the user to decide if they carry on using the platform or stop, although the warning may provide links to information and advice on social media addiction.”

They also suggest that social platforms begin to issue disclaimers whenever a photo has been manipulated or altered. It’s not clear how the platforms would achieve this across the board, as user-generated content can be difficult to monitor. But the study suggests that, to start, “fashion brands, celebrities and other advertising organizations may sign up to a voluntary code of practice where the small icon is displayed on their photos to indicate an image may have been digitally enhanced or altered to significantly alter the appearance of people in it.”

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society, explained that “platforms that are supposed to help young people connect with each other may actually be fueling a mental health crisis.”

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Jenny Tsang seen at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station outside the Tadashi Shoji show wearing Paige Denim blue jacket, Charlotte Simone striped fur scarf, Eight Slate top and silver iphone case during New York Fashion Week: Women's Fall/Winter 2016 on February 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Georgie Wileman/Getty Images) © Georgie Wileman NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 12: Jenny Tsang seen at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station outside the Tadashi Shoji show wearing Paige Denim blue jacket, Charlotte Simone striped fur scarf, Eight Slate top and silver iphone case during New York Fashion Week: Women’s Fall/Winter 2016 on February 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Georgie Wileman/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Royal College of Psychiatrists president told Sir Simon Wessely told CNN that he is “sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives. 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.”

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