News round-up / by Conor D'Andrade
The top mental health news from the week, chosen by our News Editor.
Week-long social media break reduces anxiety and depression
According to a new study by the University of Bath, a one-week break from social media can lead to significant improvements in mental wellbeing, specifically by reducing levels of anxiety and depression.
For some of the 154 participants, aged 18 to 72, 9 hours a week on social media sites such as Twitter, Tik Tok and Instagram was fairly common and every participant scrolled daily.
Scores for anxiety, depression and wellbeing were taken at the beginning of the study, after which participants were either required to stop using social media for a week or to carry on as usual (the control group).
At the end of the week, participants again had their scores for anxiety, depression and wellbeing measured, with those that took a week off having significant improvements in all three, and the control group showing no change at all.
The researchers have suggested that breaks from social media be recommended for patients being treated for anxiety and depression.
“Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact," said lead researcher Dr Jeff Lambert.
"Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it's an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others.
"But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps."
Unprecedented levels of student distress
Headteachers are reporting a worrying rise in requests from mental health teams and GPs for students to be given special considerations when sitting exams - such as being allowed to sit in a separate room - due to high levels of stress and anxiety.
Teachers have said that an unusually high number of students are having panic attacks, self-harming or disengaging, with a reduced number of university support schemes from popular institutions being cited as some of the causes of students’ distress.
Others have also highlighted the mishandling of grading by the government in the previous two years as another point of stress, with students being told that there are fewer top grades available due to the resulting grade inflation.
A mental health practitioner for Place2Be working in a secondary school told The Guardian that for students, “even thinking about exams would bring on panic."
"It’s affected sleeping and eating – particularly for females. There’s a lot of self-harm. Lots of low mood and anxiety." they explained.
“The boys tend to get more angry. One particular boy got very angry at the thought or mention of exams and was punching walls. He didn’t want to hear anything about exams, because it felt too painful, too stressful to think about.”
Dwindling greenspace causing mental health problems
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) reports that over the last century the average amount of green space within developments has been reduced from 13% to 9%. As well as a 40% reduction in the nearest park size compared with 80 years ago, and 30% when compared with the 1990s.
In addition, individuals living in developments built after the year 2000 were 5% less likely to visit nature and 30% more likely to not “feel part of nature,” further demonstrating the rapid worsening of this trend.
Considering the importance of parks and greenspace for the physical and mental wellbeing of urban residents, this trend is extremely worrying. Senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation, Dr Alex Chapman had this to say:
"For too long our heads have been turned away as poor planning and austerity politics have chipped away at people’s connection with nature. These new numbers shine a light on the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of one of our greatest national assets,
"As long as we remain wedded to our short-term profit-driven planning model, private developers will continue to cut corners on the size and quality of green space provision.
"High quality, biodiverse, urban nature is already becoming a luxury enjoyed by the wealthy and, without action, could become a thing of the past.
"Local authorities urgently need the funding and powers to protect and enhance community access to nature."
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