General News Research — 07 March 2014

Students who spend a lot of time on Facebook are more likely to develop an eating disorder, new research has revealed.

Female students who spend a lot of time on the social networking site tend to be more body conscious and to suffer from more anxiety.

They also tend to give greater significance to the number of comments and ‘likes’ on their pictures and status updates.

They are more likely to ‘untag’ themselves in pictures.

A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders saw researchers study 960 female college students.

These women were evaluated on the time they spent on Facebook, how important they considered ‘likes’ to be and whether or not they ‘untagged’ photos of themselves.bigstock-Apple-iPhone-with-Social-Media-22890494

‘Over 95 per cent of college women in our study use Facebook, and those with Facebook accounts described typically spending 20 minutes on the site during each visit, amounting to over an hour on the site each day,’ said Dr Pamela Keel.

Dr Keel found that the women who spent the most time on Facebook had the highest levels of body image problems and were the most likely to have an eating disorder.

These women were also more likely to view receiving comments and ‘likes’ on status updates as important, frequently they ‘untagged’ pictures of themselves and compared their photos to those of friends.

‘In examining the immediate consequences of Facebook use, we found that 20 minutes of Facebook use contributed to maintenance of higher weight and shape concerns and anxiety compared to a control internet condition.

‘This causal link is important because anxiety and body image concerns both increase risk for developing eating disorders,’ Dr Keel stated.

She added: ‘Facebook merges powerful peer influences with broader societal messages that focus on the importance of women’s appearance into a single platform that women carry with them throughout the day.

‘As researchers and clinicians attempt to understand and address risk factors for eating disorders, greater attention is needed to the emerging role of social media in young people’s lives.’

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests social media use can be linked to the development of eating disorders.

In December 2013 research published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking revealed teenagers who spend a long time looking at photos on Facebook are more likely to have body image problems.

The study showed that it was not the overall amount of time spent on the site, but the amount of time spent looking at pictures that determined the girl’s risk of an eating disorder.

The researchers found that the more the teenagers looked at photos on Facebook, the more likely they were to think of themselves as too fat or as having the wrong body shape.

They said that in turn leads to body image problems which can result in anorexia and other eating disorders.

This article first appeared on ‘Daily Mail’ on 5 March 2014.


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