How much is social media really affecting our mental health?

How much is social media really affecting our mental health?

A new survey carried out by the American Psychological Association (APA) has revealed that nearly half of ‘millennials’ fear their addiction to social media is having a negative impact on both their physical and mental health.

With 90% of people aged between 18 and 29 now using social media, these platforms are a significant part of modern living. The APA report states that while technology has improved the lives of many, the problem is we are now so dependent on the likes of our smartphones that we cannot imagine being without them.

It comes as no surprise that several studies have found a number of negative consequences of living in a world that has become so reliant on technology and social media sites. Smartphones and tablets provide us with such easy access to the Internet that it has created a generation of ‘constant checkers’.

The APA says:

“More than a decade after the emergence of smartphones, Facebook and Twitter, a profile is emerging of the ‘constant checker’. Such avid technology and social media use has paved the way for people who are constantly checking their emails, texts or social media accounts.”

While we may initially think that the main consequences of being a ‘constant checker’ are we waste a lot of time or are anti-social when we go out with friends, studies have found people who are constantly on their devices actually report higher stress levels than their less-connected peers.

How much time are we spending online?

Figures released by Ofcom last year revealed that the average British adult now spends twice as much time online compared to ten years ago. Including work usage, we’re investing more than 20 hours of our time on the internet each week.

This figure increases further amongst 16–24 year-olds who have tripled the amount of time they spend online.

A quarter of Internet users regularly catch up on their favourite shows via the Internet, compared to just one in seven in 2007. This figure increases to 39% amongst the 16-24 age group. Other data to come from the report includes:

  • Overall, the proportion of adults using the Internet has risen by half – from six in ten in 2005 to almost nine in 10 today
  • The average adult in the UK spends nine hours a day on the Internet. This means we’re spending more time browsing the net per day than sleeping or working
  • When questioned about the reasons why people are spending so much time online, over 80% of respondents said that it’s because the Internet makes communicating easier. The majority of the 2,500 respondents admitted that they’re probably hooked on the Internet and normally find they spend more time online than they originally intended to
  • 10% of people said they access the Internet more than 50 times a day.

How to use social media economically

While concerns exist about the negative impact social media can have on mental health, especially for young people, it’s unrealistic to expect people never to use these sites. By adopting a few strategic techniques, however, you can be a healthy user of social media.

  • Avoid ‘phubbing’ – snubbing someone you’re with in favour of your phone has become so common that there’s now a term for it. When you go out with friends, family or your partner, make it a rule that unless it’s an emergency, keep your phone away. If you find the temptation too much to resist, try turning your phone off
  • Don’t check your phone before bed – browsing through our social media accounts before bed may seem like the perfect way to unwind but the light from your phone can seriously disrupt your sleep because it delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin
  • Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning – if the first thing you have to do in the morning is check your Facebook or Instagram, it’s a sign that you’re hooked. Try to save it for your commute into work (unless you drive) or your lunch break
  • Don’t post things for ‘likes’ – attaching your perception of yourself, or even your mood, to how many people ‘like’ your post is unhealthy. Too many people rely on being acknowledged by others in order to feel good about themselves. Not getting the expected response from a person or group of people has far too much influence over the daily moods and self-esteem of too many people
  • Limit how much time you allocate each day to checking social media and don’t let yourself go over this.

If you think that you or someone you know may have an addiction to the Internet, please feel free to contact Life Works in the strictest of confidence and we will be more than happy to help.

Depression has become the leading cause of ill hea...
Should employees be encouraged to exercise at work...