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Eric Adams unveils report linking social media to rising mental health issues among NYC families

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Amidst growing concerns about the mental health effects of social media on young people, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan have released the nation’s first comprehensive public health report on the subject.

Titled the “Special Report on Social Media and Mental Health,” this pioneering document reveals a significant correlation between social media use and increased rates of anxiety and depression among children, teens, and their parents.

The report, based on surveys completed by over 22,000 parents, guardians, and caregivers of children aged 5 to 17 in New York City, offers a stark view of the digital landscape’s impact on mental health. It underscores the urgent need for regulatory action, coming just after U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy proposed warning labels on social media platforms due to their mental health risks.

“The results of this survey provide yet another confirmation of what we have long known: Social media platforms create a toxic environment that has detrimental effects on our young people,” said Mayor Adams. “Our administration is committed to supporting our youth and improving their mental health through initiatives like TeenSpace and increased access to mental health clinics in public schools. We are also taking on social media companies that use their platforms to harm our children.”

According to the report, 93 percent of NYC teens use social media, with many reporting higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to their non-using peers.

Specifically, 27 percent of social media-using teens have been diagnosed with anxiety, and 14 percent with depression. Notably, parents who use social media also report higher levels of anxiety and depression, suggesting a widespread impact across generations.

Key findings include:

High Usage Rates: Most children, teens, and adults report using social media. Over 40 percent of parents believe their children use social media too much, and 78 percent support government restrictions on teen access.

Mental Health Diagnoses: Teens using social media daily show a 90 percent rate of general worry and 56 percent report depressive symptoms.

Neighborhood Disparities: Teens in high-poverty areas use social media more frequently than those in wealthier neighborhoods.

School Differences: Children in public or charter schools are more likely to use social media than those in private schools.

The report’s recommendations emphasize the need for educational resources to promote healthy social media habits, digital literacy programs, community activities as alternatives to online time, and stricter regulations on social media companies.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom highlighted the report’s importance: “This first-of-its-kind study by a city health department helps us understand the implications of social media on our young people and chart a path forward to support them and their families.”

DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan added, “Everyone from educators to policymakers is grappling with social media’s impact. These findings will inform our policies and programs aimed at addressing the mental health challenges faced by our young people.”

In response to the report, Mayor Adams reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to mental health initiatives. This includes TeenSpace, a free tele-mental health service for teenagers, and a lawsuit against major social media companies to hold them accountable for their role in the youth mental health crisis. Additionally, new mental health clinics will open in public schools across the Bronx and Central Brooklyn.

The report also aligns with the broader goals of Mayor Adams’ “HealthyNYC” initiative, which aims to extend New Yorkers’ average lifespan and reduce mental health-related deaths by 2030. This includes early intervention for communities of color and LGBTQIA+ youth, and addressing social media’s impact on youth mental health.

State legislators have echoed the report’s urgent call to action. Senator Andrew Gounardes praised New York’s new regulations on social media algorithms and data collection, and Assemblymember Nily Rozic emphasized the clear link between social media use and rising mental health issues among youth.

“Today’s historic report reveals the unregulated social media’s harm on mental health,” said Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “By enacting the SAFE for Kids Act and other protective measures, we aim to mitigate these harms and support our children’s mental well-being.”

Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson and City Councilmember Lynn Schulman, among other officials, reiterated the need for continued action to protect the mental health of New York City’s residents.

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