Excess use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube may lead to disordered eating and body image concerns among young adults, suggests new research.
Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other clinical and mental health issues where people have a distorted body image and disordered eating.
“We’ve long known that exposure to traditional forms of media, such as fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of disordered eating and body image concerns, likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities,” said lead author Jaime Sidani from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the US.
“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 image concerns,” Sidani noted.
The results were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The researchers sampled 1,765 US adults, aged 19-32 years, using questionnaires to determine social media use.
The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
They cross-referenced those results with the results of another questionnaire that used established screening tools to assess eating disorder risk.
The researchers found that 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.
And participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently.