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Psychiatr Danub. 2014 Nov;26 Suppl 1:340-6.

Social media, help or hindrance: what role does social media play in young people's mental health?

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School of Clincal Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK,


Social media is a huge force in the lives of young people with wide ranging effects on their development; given the importance of adolescence in the genesis of mental illness, social media is a factor in the mental health of young people. Despite the role that social media obviously plays in the development of mental illness, little research has been done into the impact that social media has on in the mental illness of young people. In general, what research there is points towards social media having a large impact on young people in both positive and negative ways. In particular, certain studies show a greater incidence and severity of bullying online compared to offline which may contribute to the development of depression. This contrasts with the positive impact that social media seems to have for young people in minority groups (ethnic minorities and those with chronic disease or disability) by allowing them to connect with others who live similar lives despite geographical separation. This acts as a positive influence in these people's lives though a direct link to mental illness was not shown. Overall, several important issues are raised: firstly, the lack of research that has been conducted in the area; secondly, the gulf that exists between the generation of younger, 'digital native' generations and the older generations who are not as engaged with social media; and finally, the huge potential that exists for the use of social media as a protective influence for adolescents. With proper engagement, policy makers and health professionals could use social media to connect with young people on issues like mental health.

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