Young people warned to limit social media use when feeling down

New research finds that young people should limit time on social media when feeling unhappy.
1 June 2017

Research published in our Eudaimonia Report "How do humans flourish?", found that the use of social media often amplifies the user’s current mood. Rosi Prescott, chief executive of Central YMCA has issued a warning regarding the use of social media when feeling low following the publication of their wellbeing report.

The study measured each person’s (aged 16–65) overall sense of wellbeing and then asked them to assess the impact of different factors on how they were feeling. 35% of people with low wellbeing scores said that using social media made them feel worse (compared to 18% of people with average wellbeing scores).

Conversely, 36% of people with high wellbeing scores, reported feeling happier after spending time on social media (compared to 20% of people with average wellbeing scores).

The impact of social media on our personal sense of wellbeing is clearly complex, but young people should be aware that there are better strategies to help lift their spirits when feeling low.
Rosi Prescott

These findings support a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Pisa survey which revealed that British students who spent more than six hours online per day had a weaker sense of belonging, felt lonelier and were more likely to be bullied.

The OECD Pisa survey also found that, British pupils in comparison to their global peers are more anxious and worried, with almost three quarters reporting feeling nervous before tests compared to a 55% international average. 

The benefits of mental stimulation  

Commenting on the findings, Rosi Prescott, our CEO, said:

“Our study found that many young people (those 24 years or younger) use social media as a way to improve their mood and sense of personal wellbeing, a much higher proportion than older groups.

“However, while this may be the effect when they are already feeling positive, the research found that using social media when in a low mood often exaggerates these negative feelings.

“These are, according to the data, involve undertaking physical activity or spending time with good friends or family.  Mental stimulation, is also shown to improve feelings of wellbeing, such as completing a difficult task or learning something new.”

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