Facebook Linked to Body Image Issues

Here’s one for the “depressing but not particularly surprising” file: a new study by researchers at the University of Strathclyde, the University of Iowa, and the University of Ohio found that Facebook use may result in an increased likelihood of negative body image issues among young women. The study, titled “Facebook and College Women's Bodies: Social Media's Influence on Body Image and Disordered Eating,” surveyed 881 college women about their Facebook use, eating and exercise habits, and body image.

The researchers examined the prevalence of negative body image among young women after looking at other people’s photos or posts, and how often subjects compared their own bodies to their friends’. Overall, young women who spent more time on Facebook were more likely to compare their bodies to their friends’ and to have negative feelings about their bodies. In fact the researchers were able to predict when subjects would have negative feelings based on how much time they spent looking at others’ photos on Facebook.

The good news (such as it is) is that Facebook use is not correlated with greater likelihood of eating disorders.

Lead author Petya Eckler stated: “Public health professionals who work in the area of eating disorders and their prevention now have clear evidence of how social media relates to college women's body image and eating disorders. While time spent on Facebook had no relation to eating disorders, it did predict worse body image among participants.”

Eckler added: “As experts in the field know, poor body image can gradually lead to developing an unhealthy relationship with food. The attention to physical attributes may be even more dangerous on social media than on traditional media because participants in social media are people we know. These comparisons are much more relevant and hit closer to home. Yet they may be just as unrealistic as the images we see on traditional media.”

A number of studies have correlated frequent use of social media, and Facebook in particular, with low self-esteem, anxiety, and other negative emotional outcomes.

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