Mental Health: Study finds social media affects girls’ mental health earlier than boys’

This Morning: Dr Nighat on physical impacts of mental health

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Psychologists say social media platforms could affect the mental wellbeing of children at different ages depending on their gender.

Researchers found girls who spent more time on social media between the ages of 11 and 13 were less happy with their lives a year on.

The same occurred in boys aged 14 to 15.

While social media was the environment in which this occurred, no link was found between social media and well-being at other ages apart from those aged 19; at this age a drop in life satisfaction after usage was also found.

Dr Amy Orben, experimental psychologist at the University of Cambridge said of the results: “We find there are certain ages, which differ between the sexes, when social media more substantially predicts life satisfaction.”

The reason for the research was to identify a link between social media and increasing numbers of young people seeking treatment for mental health conditions.

Young Minds say the number of children between the ages of five and 16 seeking help rose by 50 percent between 2017 and 2021.

The charity says around five in every children in every classroom are affected.

Dr Orben and her fellow researchers discovered a two way effect in their research.

They found at a certain ages, social media use was linked to a drop in life satisfaction around a year on.

Meanwhile, greater social media use was linked to lower life satisfaction a year on.

Although this data provides an insight into how social media affects young people, there was one caveat; in that the findings could not be used to predict how any one person would respond to social media.

Furthermore, the study does not conclude that social media harms mental wellbeing.

However, the researchers suggest there may be: “windows of vulnerability” that appear at different times for boys and girls.

This isn’t the first time social media has been linked to poor mental health.

Another study, conducted by UCL, found higher rates of depression among girls was linked to how much time was spent on social media.

UCL Professor Yvonne Kelly said: “One of the big challenges with using information about the amount of time spent on social media is that it isn’t possible to know what is going on for young people, and what they are encountering whilst online.

“To advance the science, and importantly to make changes to improve young people’s wellbeing, we need more detailed, nuanced data about people’s online experiences.”

More research needs to go into social media and youth mental health so a science-based link can be drawn.

For more information on mental health services contact the NHS or consult with your GP.

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