Selfies, those self-portraits that are typically well-lit and heavily edited, and that proliferate on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, are responsible for a spike in depression and anxiety in women aged 16 to 24, according to a recent study conducted by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).
Statistics from the study show that 26 per cent of women between the ages of 16 and 24 reported common mental health symptoms including anxiety and depression, indicating a jump from 21 per cent reported in 2007. This makes young women three times as likely as males to suffer from selfie culture pressures, and makes them the most at-risk group for mental health issues.
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“When we are looking at social media and the ‘selfie culture’ the problem starts far earlier, and I think we are going to see these trends continuing,” Lauren Chakkalackal, senior research officer at the Mental Health Foundation, said to the The Telegraph. “On social media, they are seeing these edited versions of lives, bikinis, beaches, not seeing the reality.”
In addition to mental health risks, this group was also reported to most likely consume hazardous amounts of alcohol – 26 per cent of respondents admitted to doing so – compared to women in other age groups. And it reported high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While researchers recognize that women are more susceptible to violence which can trigger PTSD, they also note that the young women who participated in the study are the first group to have come of age in the social media era.
Dr. Hayley van Zwanenberg, clinical director of the Priory Group‘s well-being centres, said to Metro UK: “Younger people of today – the ‘touch screen’ generation – see the internet as their friend but for many it is actually a huge distorting mirror, presenting a world of ‘perfect’ people with perfect lives against whom they judge themselves very harshly.”
This study is one in a long list of research done on the effects of selfies and social media. For the most part, the conclusions are less than flattering. One study found that men who post a lot of selfies exhibit psychopathic tendencies, while another indicated that frequent self-photographers reported having fewer friends and feeling less supported in relationships. Selfie-obsession has also been shown to endanger your job and could lead to body dysmorphia.
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