Social Media and Mental Ill Health in Young People

Subject: Entertainment & Media
Pages: 4
Words: 1174
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College

Social media and mental ill-health is a major social issue as it affects several young people worldwide. Although online platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have made it possible for people to be connected despite their different locations, this has come at a high cost, especially for the youth. One of its major implications is its relationship with the mental health of adolescents and young people. According to Karim et al. (2020), about 13% of adolescents have suffered from depression, and 32% reported anxiety due to social media use. In addition to this, 25% of young adults (18-25-year-olds) have been affected by depression due to the use of online platforms (Karim et al., 2020). Statistics show that the most affected by this issue are girls.

The social issue has been framed as problematic since evidence-based research shows a negative relationship between youths’ mental health and social media. Although this is still emerging, new and existing evidence has shown a big picture of how the social issue has been framed as problematic. For one, social media can lead to anxiety as it increases the ability of users to be updated with the activities of their social circles (Naslund et al., 2020). This results in the fear of missing out (FOMO) concept where one fears that other people might be having nice experiences from which they are absent, compelling the user to stay updated with what others are doing (Viner et al., 2019). FOMO can lead to feelings of lower life satisfaction, loneliness, anxiety, and inadequacy.

In addition to this, the constant use of social media is connected to the brain. This suggests that the need to constantly check one’s social media is triggered by instant gratification and the production of dopamine (a chemical in the brain associated with pleasure) (Goodyear et al., 2018). In this case, failure to experience gratification may lead to the internalization of beliefs that the users’ posts do not receive likes because they are not funny and popular. This negative self-reflection prompts the user to continuously refresh the page, hoping to get a like and achieve personal validation. The absence of gratification, in this case, may increase the person’s feelings of anxiety, lower life satisfaction, and loneliness, thereby leading to mental illness.

Social media has also been related to concerns about body image. According to Glazzard and Stones (2019), compared to non-users, young people (especially girls from their teens to early twenties) who use social media have higher body image concerns. This is specially brought about by the power of media to portray images of ideal bodies that define beauty in society. Through this, young people start comparing themselves with this image, and when they feel their bodies are not favorable to the perfect bodies, they develop low self-esteem. Youths and adolescents are mostly affected by celebrities, and they may want to look like them. However, when they feel they cannot achieve this, they can develop low body confidence, depression, and body surveillance. As a result, they may even pick up eating disorders.

Cyberbullying is also another major concern brought about by social media use. This can be experienced through intimidation, hurtful comments, threats, and posting videos or photographs (disturbing content) whose primary intention is to cause stress. An example of a teen who suffered this is Molly Russell, a 14-year-old in England who committed suicide after viewing disturbing self-harm images on Instagram (Glazzard & Stones, 2019).

This is just an example, as several teenagers and young people have succumbed to death due to the depression caused by cyberbullying on social media. For the victims, cyberbullying can be so humiliating, and it can lead to their loss of self-worth and confidence (Karim et al., 2020). Worse off, it can bring about depression, causing the victim to commit suicide. In this regard, social media organizations should come up with a statutory duty of care that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of youths and adolescents using their platforms since they can control what people see on their platforms.

The issue of mental health and its connection to social media has been in discussion for many years. The association between the two was proven by several researchers, leading to theories that explain the link. According to the displaced theory, individuals who engage in interaction through social platforms have less time to interact socially (Karim et al., 2020). Social interaction has been proven to be protective against mental health problems. Moreover, according to social theories, social media affects the mental health of individuals by influencing how they interact with those around them (Karim et al., 2020). Thus, the theories explain why social media can cause depression and other mental health problems in youths.

The depression associated with the use of social media is influenced by the experience people get in social networks, for example, cyberbullying. The information below proves the effects of cyberbullying are mostly experienced by girls (Anderson, 2018). Also, through the data, it is possible to determine that girls share many challenges from social media, such as physical threats and offensive name-calling. Therefore, girls are more likely to be affected mentally when using social media than boys. In another research conducted in England, the youth aged 13 to 16 were tested to see the relationship between social media and their mental health (Viner et al., 2019). The results showed that frequent use of social media affects girls’ mental health due to lack of physical activities, cyberbullying, and displacement of sleep.

Social Media and Mental Ill Health in Young People

Social platforms also cause the risk of peer influence on the youths. This results from the content the youth watch on their phones. For example, if a teenager watches a video that portrays drug abuse, there is a likelihood that the teenager might engage in drug abuse. According to Nesi (2020), youths exposed to content showing risky behaviors may engage in such behaviors themselves. A study was conducted to test this idea by putting 400 youths who were in a psychiatrist into the test (Nesi, 2020). The result confirmed a significant number of the youth who reported viewing content that promoted suicide before admission to the psychiatric hospital.

Reviewing the information gathered, the negative impacts the social platform has can be prevented. Its negativity on the youth depends on how much they engage in its use daily. In my case, using social media has led to a reduction in my sleeping time. Therefore, I assume that if there is a lack of mitigation measures to reduce the time individuals spend on social networks, the youths’ mental health will continue to be at risk. Many people continue to join social media for entertainment and social interaction, making it hard to avoid the increase in the number of youths with mental health problems associated with social media. Since we cannot keep off the phone for a day, my idea is that we should find solutions to limit its usage and build policies that control the content put on social media platforms.


Anderson, M. (2018). A majority of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Pew Research Center. Web.

Glazzard, J., & Stones, S. (2019). Social media and young people’s mental health (Eds). In Selected topics in child and adolescent mental health, Samuel Stones, Jonathan Glazzard and Maria Rosaria Muzio. IntechOpen. 13-21. Web.

Goodyear, V., Armour, K., & Wood, H. (2018). The impact of social media on young people’s health and wellbeing: Evidence, guidelines, and actions. Project Report. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham.

Hunt, M. G., Marx, R., Lipson, C., & Young, J. (2018). No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 37(10), 751-768. Web.

Karim, F., Oyewande, A. A., Abdalla, L. F., Ehsanullah, R. C., & Khan, S. (2020). Social media use and its connection to mental health: A systematic review. Cureus, 12(6). Web.

Naslund, J. A., Bondre, A., Torous, J., & Aschbrenner, K. A. (2020). Social media and mental health: benefits, risks, and opportunities for research and practice. Journal of technology in behavioral science, 5(3), 245-257. Web.

Nesi, J. (2020). The impact of social media on youth mental health: Challenges and opportunities. North Carolina medical journal, 81(2), 116-121. Web.

Viner, R. M., Gireesh, A., Stiglic, N., Hudson, L. D., Goddings, A. L., Ward, J. L., & Nicholls, D. E. (2019). Roles of cyberbullying, sleep, and physical activity in mediating the effects of social media use on mental health and wellbeing among young people in England: A secondary analysis of longitudinal data. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 3(10), 685-696. Web.