New research suggests that social media, particularly platforms with a strong focus on image posting and viewing, is associated with disordered eating in young adolescents.
In the study, which is published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers examined data on 996 grade 7 and 8 adolescents. Behaviors related to disordered eating were reported by 51.7% of girls and 45.0% of boys, with strict exercise and meal skipping being the most common. A total of 75.4% of girls and 69.9% of boys had at least one social media account, and Instagram was the most common. A greater number of social media accounts, and greater daily time spent using them, were associated with a higher likelihood of disordered eating thoughts and behaviors.
"While a range of studies have focused on the impact of social media on body image, this is the first to examine the relationship between specific social media platforms and disordered eating behaviors and thoughts. Further, most other studies have also focused on older adolescents or young-adult women," said lead author Simon Wilksch, PhD, of Flinders University, in Australia. "Thus, to find these clear associations between disordered eating and social media use in young adolescent girls and boys suggests that much more needs to be done to increase resilience in young people to become less adversely impacted by social media pressures." Dr Wilksch and colleagues are launching an Australia-wide trial of the Media Smart Online program designed to combat such pressures, and people of any gender aged 13-25 years can email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.