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A new study reveals heavy social media use is linked to poor mental health in teenagers

The research included over 5,000 students in England and was part of the Millennium Cohort Study.

Social media being looked at by ftc
Image: Unsplash

A recent study conducted by the Education Policy Institute and The Prince’s Trust revealed a worrying trend in teens’ mental health and well-being. The research included over 5,000 students in England and was part of the Millennium Cohort Study.

A big part of the study happened during October 2020, and it focused on teenagers and the effects of heavy use of social media on their mental health and well-being.

Here are some of the key findings from the social media study:

  • In 2017, the number of teenagers that most likely suffered from some form of mental illness was one in nine. In 2020, the number grew to about one in six
  • One out of three girls said that they were unhappy with their appearance until they reached 14
  • Teenage boys in the bottom set, still at primary school, were diagnosed with lower esteem at 14 than their peers
  • Both genders also experienced a decline in their well-being. However, by carefully observing the data in the study, girls experienced a much more significant decline
  • Boys’ well-being and self-esteem reportedly continue to decline even after entering their late teen years, whereas doesn’t seem to be the case with girls. Well-being and self-esteem with girls seem stable as they moved into the later stages of their teen lives. 

According to the study, heavy social media use has a massive negative impact on teens’ self-esteem and well-being, with teen girls reporting feelings of hopelessness and depression. Poor maternal health, lack of exercise, and family income were also listed as factors contributing to teen’s mental health.

Jonathan Townsend, the CEO of The Prince’s Trust, said that regular exercise proved to have a positive impact on both male and female teens. However, due to lockdowns and school closures, participation in sports activities declined considerably, which adversely affected well-being and mental health. 

Furthermore, Townsend said that young people were hit hard by the pandemic in many ways. Plus, the transition from childhood to adolescence is often very turbulent for many young people. Because of all that, they’ve recommended a £650m funding for mental health teaching in schools.

The idea is not just to educate young people about mental health, but also to provide assistance and access to mental health support during this period of their lives.

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