Nearly 13 percent of children and young people aged between five and 19 years had a mental disorder in 2017, according to a major new report by NHS Digital.
The report collected information from 9,117 children and young people exploring the development of mental disorders within different age groups, and potentially contributing factors.
For the first time, the findings suggested a correlation between social media use and mental disorders, showing that 11-19 years olds with a mental disorder were likely to use social media every day (87.3 percent) that those without (77.8%).
According to the report, among young people who used social media daily, those with a disorder tended to be on social media for longer; 29% of daily users with a disorder were on social media for more than four hours on a typical school day, compared with 12% of daily users without a mental health condition.
The report also looked at other aspects of the lives of the children and young people surveyed, including bullying and cyberbullying, and found that one in five had been bullied online via social media in the past year.
The data states that over a quarter of children who used social media felt that they compared themselves to others online whilst one in six children who were social media users agreed that the number of likes, comments or shares that they received on social media had an impact on their mood. Those with a disorder were more likely to feel this way than those without.
Despite previous speculation about the relationship between social media and mental health, the effects of new technology are still relatively unknown.
However, commenting on the report, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said social media “can perpetuate unrealistic expectations for people to live up to, and it can make the pressures of life relentless and inescapable, which can certainly have a negative and serious impact on people's mental health and wellbeing.”
She also noted that the College “has been calling for better access to specialist mental health services for children and young people in the community for some time.
“We desperately need more, and more varied, mental health services, close to home where they can be of most benefit for our patients – and GPs need to have better and quicker access to these services for our patients.”