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Population Europe: Policy brief on what kind of impact social media is having on adolescent health

Adolescence is a significant time in one’s life. This is when young people begin to establish habits, certain health behaviours and lifestyles. Due to puberty, they also begin to undergo significant physical, biological and neurological changes that have an impact on their decision-making and cognitive behaviours. Despite this being a critical time, the research available on adolescent health, particularly focused on European youth and its societal implications today and in the future, is scarce.

Therefore, the policy brief by Population Europe focuses on one specific aspect of adolescent health: What is already known throughout the various disciplines and what still needs to be investigated about mental health and illness.

Some key messages include:

  • Adolescence is a time when young people establish habits, certain health behaviours and lifestyles that shape later life outcomes, however, there is not a wide range of research on adolescents’ health.
  • The number of adolescents dealing with mental illness, specifically depression, is growing. Depression at this young age can have implications on one’s future mental and physical health.
  • Social media use among adolescents has resulted in higher levels of unhappiness, anxiety and depression among young people.
  • Students should learn in school how to navigate social media, and be educated about mental health and how to recognise when either themselves or someone they know is suffering. Awareness also needs to be drawn to how they can seek support.
  • More research focused on adolescent health and mental health is needed to understand the long-term impact of health in adolescence and to contribute to the establishment of preventative programmes to help reduce long-term costs.

Download the Policy Brief 19/2018 here.