Study links social media use to poor body image
Posted May 22, 2016
Parents sometimes think magazines, movies and reality TV are the biggest influencers of a child’s body image. But researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have found a link between teens and poor body image many might not expect: Social media.
“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,” study author Jaime E. Sidani said in a press release.
The study sampled more than 1,700 people between the ages of 17 and 32 to determine social media use habits and found that the people who spent the most time with social media were more than twice as likely to report body concerns and putting them at greater risk for eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating.
Sidani’s findings support what other researchers have found over the years that, when used too much or overemphasized in a child’s life, social media can influence how a child thinks about their relationships, their identity and self-worth, and even how what moral values they deem important.
However, Sidani also said more research was needed to specify if subjects felt more prone to disordered eating and dissatisfaction because of exposure to social media or because they were finding support on various social media platforms.
“Conversely, people who have eating and body image concerns might then be turning to social media to connect with groups of people who also have these concerns,” co-author Brian Primack said in the press release. “However, connecting with these groups for social support could inhibit recovery because of the desire to continue being a part of the shared identity such social media groups foster.”