Health down­side to so­cial me­dia

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SO­PHIE BORLAND

LON­DON: So­cial me­dia is fu­elling a surge of de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and self-harm in young women in Bri­tain, health of­fi­cials warned.

More than a quar­ter of women aged 16 to 24 are suf­fer­ing from a men­tal health dis­or­der, three times the rate for young men.

And a fifth of young women have harmed them­selves, a three-fold rise since 2000, a ma­jor Na­tional Health Ser­vice re­port re­veals.

Ex­perts blame the grow­ing in­flu­ence of so­cial me­dia sites such as Instagram, Face­book and Twit­ter for en­cour­ag­ing feel­ings of in­se­cu­rity.

There is pres­sure on young­sters to log on to these sites to post pho­tos and com­ments about their ap­par­ently “ex­cit­ing” lives.

This is en­cour­ag­ing com­pe­ti­tion, self-loathing and bul­ly­ing, par­tic­u­larly among young women, ex­perts say. The re­port by NHS Dig­i­tal was based on a sur­vey of 7 500 adults aged 16 and above about their men­tal health. But of most con­cern are women aged 16 to 24. Some 26 per­cent of them were found to be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing com­mon men­tal health dis­or­der symp­toms, up from 19 per­cent in 1993.

These in­clude de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, ob­ses­sive be­hav­iour and sleep­ing prob­lems – which af­fect only 9 per­cent of men of the same age.

The sur­vey found that 19.7 per­cent of young women had harmed them­selves at least once in their lives, up from 6.5 per­cent in 2000. The re­port said it was likely many did it re­peat­edly as a long-term cop­ing strat­egy.

Another one in eight (12.7 per­cent) showed symp­toms of post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, a con­di­tion suf­fered by some sol­diers re­turn­ing from war.

The re­port said there was mount­ing ev­i­dence so­cial me­dia ex­po­sure and ex­ces­sive use of mo­bile phones and com­put­ers were to blame for this surge.

Lead au­thor Sally McManus, from the Na­tional Cen­tre for So­cial Re­search, said there were very high rates of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety among women aged 16 to 24. “This is the first co­hort to come of age in so­cial me­dia ubiq­uity,” she said. “It war­rants fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The NHS men­tal health sur­vey is car­ried out ev­ery seven years and these lat­est re­sults are from 2014. Ex­perts said the find­ings were the first in­di­ca­tion of the im­pact so­cial me­dia web­sites are hav­ing on young women’s men­tal health.

Many feel obliged to en­hance their pho­tos for fear they might be la­belled fat or ugly. Oth­ers ad­mit to feel­ing re­jected if their images don’t get enough pos­i­tive com­ments or “likes” on Face­book.

De­spite the alarm­ing trends, fig­ures last week showed the NHS has slashed spend­ing on men­tal health ser­vices. Fifty­seven per­cent of health trusts plan to re­duce their bud­get for the next 12 months.

Health Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt said an NHS plan to rev­o­lu­tionise men­tal health care would see an ad­di­tional £1 bil­lion in­vested ev­ery year by 2020.

Across all ages, one in five women have symp­toms of a men­tal dis­or­der com­pared to one in eight men. These fig­ures have steadily in­creased in women but re­mained broadly sta­ble in men, the re­port said. – Daily Mail

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