Study Finds that Less Social Media Can Help Teenagers with Body Image Issues

Study Finds that Less Social Media Can Help Teenagers with Body Image Issues
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A recent study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that teenagers and young adults who cut back on their usage of social media by half their usual time, had substantial changes in their feelings about their weight and general looks in only a few weeks when compared to those who continued to use it at the same rate.

Gary Goldfield, the study’s lead author, explained that “Adolescence is a really vulnerable period for the development of body image issues, EDs and mental illness. Youth are spending, on average, between 6 to 8 hours per day on their screens, much of it on social media. Social media can expose its users to hundreds and even thousands of photos every day, including those of celebrities and fitness or fashion models, which we know leads to internalizing beauty ideals, which are unattainable for almost everybody, resulting in greater dissatisfaction with body weight and shape.”

The scientists enrolled a group of 220 college students with symptoms of anxiety and depression who regularly used social media for at least 2 hours every day.

They were between 17 and 25 year old (76% female, 23% male, and 1% other gender identities).

All of the participants were instructed to use social media as usual throughout the first week of the trial, and researchers monitored their screen usage.

After that, the other half was told to limit their daily social media use to no more than an hour.

Participants were asked to assess how they felt about their looks in general as well as their weight at the start and conclusion of the trial.

The results showed that, regardless of gender, those who cut back on social media usage significantly improved their opinions of their looks as well as their weight after only three weeks.

Goldfield went on to also share that “Our brief, 4 week intervention using screentime trackers showed that reducing social media use resulted in significant improvements in appearance and weight esteem in distressed young people with heavy social media use. Reducing social media is a feasible method of producing a short term positive effect on body image in a quite vulnerable user population and needs to be evaluated as a potential component in the treatment of body image related disturbances.”

The researchers now want to know if the psychological advantages of reducing media use may be increased by doing it for extended periods of time.

To do so, they are hoping to soon conduct a larger study.


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Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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