Why social media is driving our teens to despair
Almost two thirds of young Aussies fear their mental health is getting worse, with social media labelled as one of the leading causes of decline.
Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation revealed the alarming figure in a survey that showed more young people thought online activity was more harmful to their mental health than drugs and alcohol.
Just five per cent of respondents pointed to booze and drugs as the reason they believed their mental health was deteriorating, while 37 per cent indicated it was due to social media.
Eighteen per cent said expectations from family, school and the community contributed to a worsening, while 16 per cent pointed to work or study pressure.
Amid calls for a climate emergency and school climate strikes, just eight per cent of respondents said environmental, political and social issues had a negative impact on their peers' mental health.
The data also one third of young people in Australia were experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress, with half dealing with these problems on their own rather than speaking to someone about them.
Females were also more likely to think the mental health of young people was getting worse compared to males.
Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said more awareness needed to be generated about the impact social media can have on mental health.
"A young person's real-world persona and online persona are so intertwined these days so for example, if they're being vulnerable online or sharing something personal and not getting the reaction they were hoping for, it can be really upsetting. There's also exposure to things like cyber-bullying and this ability to draw comparisons between your own life and that of your peers, perhaps making young people feel like what they're doing isn't stacking up," Mr Trethowan said.
"We need to be clear about the fact that these platforms are designed in a specific way to keep young people online, and that reducing use is not always as simple as it sounds. We need to raise awareness about the impacts of social media overuse, and support young people to develop the skills they need to handle these new and evolving challenges.
"There are only so many hours in the day and if time spent online is taking away from things that offer balance and a healthy mind frame, that's where we run into problems."
The research comes as the youth mental health organisation announced its Headspace Day ambassador, actor Georgie Stone.
Ms Stone said: "One in four young people will experience a mental health issue. I want to tell other young people that they're not alone, even if what you're going through feels really isolating, there are people you can connect with and talk to, and self-care strategies you can try to help yourself through hard times."