Nearly half believe social media harmful, survey finds

Vast majority believe depression and mental health issues on the rise, according to study

Tue, Sep 17, 2013, 12:35

Most people believe modern technology and social media are detrimental to the health of young people, according to a new survey.

This sentiment is particularly felt in households with children under 16, with 45 per cent “strongly agreeing” that social media are harmful, according to this year’s Pfizer Health Index.

The survey reveals the perceived impact the recession is having on people’s health, with 90 per cent of respondents agreeing that depression, anxiety and mental health issues have increased since the recession.

When asked in what ways depression or mental health issues have affected people or their families, reduced finances and not being able to work were the most frequent responses. Over one-third of people said these problems had caused divisions in the family and 34 per cent said it caused other physical illnesses. One-quarter of those surveyed referred to relationship or marital difficulties.

Now in its eighth year, the index tracks changes in relation to private health insurance and medical cards annually. The number of people with health insurance has dropped from 44 per cent in 2010 to 34 per cent this year. The increase in medical cards seen in recent years has tailed off and now stands at 41 per cent, the same as in 2011.

The number of people with no medical cover now stands at 950,000, or 27 per cent of the population, the highest since this figure was included in the survey four years ago.

Paul Reid, managing director of Pfizer Healthcare, said the increase in people with no health insurance or medical card cover was a concern. “This is of enormous public and personal significance, as an increasing number of people are vulnerable at times of ill health and sickness and the continued decline in private insurance increases pressure on public health expenditure,” he said.

Speaking at the launch of the index, Kilkenny hurler DJ Carey discussed his own health experience. “Despite being physically healthy for years as part of the senior Kilkenny hurling team, I experienced some health scares of my own last year and no doubt the stress and pressure that I was under at the time contributed to them. Thankfully I was treated successfully for both conditions and I’m feeling great today but I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to look after your health, and in particular your mental health.”

The basic sample for the survey released by the pharmaceutical company is 1,003 adults aged and over. Pfizer said the sample was quota controlled to ensure a precise representation of the adult population. The questionnaire is included on one of Behaviour & Attitudes’ fortnightly barometer surveys,