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Social media and how it can negatively affect our body image

Impressionable minds: we take a closer look at the rise of mental health issues as a result of using social media

Research by wellbeing brand Soul Analyse looked at the impact social media is having on people's mental health. Over 2000 adults were asked about their social media behaviour and their feelings surrounding it.

The study found that fifth of people who had used social media in the previous 12 months experienced mental health issues directly as a result of using social media. Twenty per cent of adults feel depressed or anxious when using social media platforms.

The results indicate that younger people are more at risk of being negatively affected. More than three in ten 18-24-year-olds said they felt anxious or depressed when using social platforms, and 58 per cent said that social media makes them more likely to notice their flaws.

Filtering is flawed 

The survey also found a correlation between those who use image filters and those who experience mental health issues. Of the people who said they felt anxious or depressed, 34 per cent said they filter photos of themselves, while 15 per cent said they felt empowered by filtering photos of themselves.

"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 found a link between time spent online and happiness. Of the people who spend six-10 hours a week viewing other people’s content online, 41 per cent reported being happy, compared to 33 per cent of those who spend 11-15 hours, and 30 per cent who spend 16-20 hours on social media.

 Snapchat's effect on mental health

Snapchat was revealed as the biggest culprit for negatively affecting the way people feel about themselves. More than a third of people who use the multimedia messaging app said they feel less confident about their body as a result of using Snapchat. Instagram was not far behind, with 28 per cent of users feeling less confident after using the platform.

The survey looked at patterns between mental health and comparing lives to others online. Of those who admitted to comparing themselves to celebrities and influencers, almost half said they felt anxious or depressed. Over 70 per cent of people who compare themselves to celebrities and influencers said that they notice their flaws more, and 81 per cent of people feel pressure to improve their appearance.

Dunleavy said: "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."

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