Selfies, social media and risk of eating disorders

May 8, 2020 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Selfies, social media and risk of eating disorders

New research from Florida State University revealed a consistent and direct link between posting edited photos on Instagram and risk factors for eating disorders, suggesting that this is not a harmless behavior. 

The first stage the research examined the association between posting edited photos and mental health measures in 2,485 undergraduates (76% female, 24% male).

The next stage examined the link between posting edited photos and eating disorder risk factors in 80 undergraduates, mostly females (93%), who had endorsed posting edited photos in Stage 1 of the study.

Specifically, digitally editing pictures to improve personal appearance before posting photos to Instagram increased weight and shape concerns in college students.

The study also found that posting photos (edited or unedited) contributed to greater anxiety and reinforced urges to restrict food intake and exercise compared with not posting photos.

"As more people turn to social media to stay connected, it's critically important to let others see you as you are. Compared with edited photos, we saw no decrease in the number of likes or comments for unedited photos on Instagram”, said one of the researchers.

Editing selfies is counterproductive

Girls and young women shouldn't spend a lot of time editing selfies for social media because it negatively influences their thoughts about their looks, according to another study from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

For the study, the researchers asked 130 women aged 18 to 30 to view Instagram snaps of thin and average sized women, before analysing their selfie habits.

They found that the longer the women took to edit and post selfies, the worse their mood and dissatisfaction about their facial appearance.

The women in the study spent about 4.5 minutes editing up to five selfies, to smooth and change skin tone, remove dark eye circles, shape their faces and remove flaws.

The researchers say investing time and effort into taking, selecting, and editing selfies are not harmless activities because they have detrimental effects on women motivated to present the best possible version of themselves. As well, they advise that teenagers and young women should be dissuaded from using software to edit selfies.

The study found that the increase in dissatisfaction following the selfie task was based on the extent of

The results also indicate extensive selfie editing leads to feeling disingenuous online.

The findings illustrate the difficulties women encounter in negotiating the contemporary social media world.

Sources: International Journal Eating Disorders, May 5, 2020 and Body Image, March 27, 2020.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.