Investigation finds Instagram aware of mental health impact

instagram mental health impact, teen girls
© Soniabonet

According to the Wall Street Journal, Instagram has been aware of severe mental health impacts on teenage girls for the past three years

The investigation, by Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman, found that Instagram have been conducting research into their negative mental health impact for the last three years.

32% of teen girls feel bad about bodies

The app, famous for presenting an idealised version of lives, bodies and faces, has previously been linked with declining mental health in teenagers. When plans for an under-13 version of the app were announced, they were met with resistance from child-focused charities.

Now, an investigative team reveal that Facebook, which owns Instagram, knows that 32% of teen girls felt bad about their bodies – worse when they used Instagram. This fact was discussed internally at Facebook in March, 2020.

The researchers said: “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

According to the leaked presentation, 13% of British users and 6% of American users can pinpoint their suicidal feelings to the use of Instagram. In the UK, online harms regulation was proposed after the suicide of a 14-year old girl, connected directly to her participation in Instagram self-harm communities.

“Coming of age in an increasingly digital world”

Dr Lynne Green, a consultant clinical psychologist, commented: “Eating disorders do most commonly affect girls between the ages of 13 and 17. This group has several common factors – the most important being: they are going through puberty, so their bodies are changing; they are female, so our culture particularly subjects them to sexualised and unrealistic body images that they may not identify with; and they are coming of age in an increasingly digital world, so it is difficult for them to create a safe space that is reflective of real bodies and lifestyles.”

In the Facebook document, one slide reads: “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

The findings point to Facebook having a highly specific awareness of the suicidal and body image issues that Instagram is routinely generating in users, especially vulnerable teens.

Adam Mosseri, Instagram chief executive, said he that he has been working hard and trying to get the team to “embrace our responsibilities more broadly.”

It is yet to be seen what move Instagram will take to change these statistics.


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