Frequent social media use could increase risk of developing eating and body image concerns

social media feature imageA recent analysis conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has found that logging on to social media sites frequently throughout the week is linked to a greater risk of young adults developing eating and body image concerns.

It’s long been thought that exposure to fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of eating disorders and body image concerns. According to the assistant director at the university’s research centre this likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities. Jaime E. Sidani also stated “Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes that can lead to eating and body concerns.”

Dr. Sidani and her colleagues sampled 1,765 adults aged between 19 and 32, using questionnaires to determine social media use. The questionnaires asked about popular social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

The participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media. Participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently.

Senior author Brian A. Primack, assistant vice chancellor for health and society at the university’s School of the Health Sciences, noted that the analysis could not determine whether social media use was contributing to eating and body image concerns or vice versa.

“It could be that young adults who use more social media are exposed to more images and messages that encourage development of disordered eating,” he said.

In an effort to battle social media-fueled eating disorders, Instagram banned the hashtags ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspo,’ but users easily found a way round these barriers by spelling the words slightly differently.

The vice chancellor reiterated that more research would be needed into the subject to develop effective measures to tackle social media content that intentionally, or unintentionally, increases the risk of eating disorders in social media users.

Source: Medical News Today

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