New Study: Facebook Use May Increase Risk of Eating Disorders

The new study suggests that wasting time on Facebook isn’t just bad for your productivity – now it could be endangering your health.

The study, published on Wednesday, sampled 600 American Facebook users between the ages of 16 and 40. Photo: Mehfuz Hossain/Flickr

“Facebook is an influential factor in developing severe eating disorders,” Dr. Steven Crawford, the Center for Eating Disorders’ associate director, said in the report.

According to the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, fifty-one percent of people who regularly use the social networking site said they felt more self conscious about their bodies after seeing photos of themselves on the social network.

“Facebook is making it easier for people to spend more time and energy criticizing their own bodies and wishing they looked like someone else,” the Center’s Director, Dr. Harry Brandt, explained.

“In this age of modern technology and constant access to SmartPhones and the internet, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to remove themselves from images and other triggers that promote negative body image, low self-esteem and may ultimately contribute to eating disorders,” Brandt added.

As The New York Daily News reports, eighty percent of those surveyed revealed they logged into Facebook “at least once a day,” making it nearly impossible to avoid encountering photos of themselves and their friends.

That level of exposure proved damaging for a significant chunk of the users surveyed: 44 percent said they want to have the same figures as their Facebook friends do, while 32 percent admitted feeling “sad when comparing Facebook photos of themselves to their friend’s photos.”

While more women than men admitted they’d like to lose some weight, 75 percent compared to 58 percent, men were far more vocal about their dissatisfaction. Forty percent of men said they’ve posted negative comments about their bodies, while only half that number of women had done so.

The researchers claim that spending time looking at photos on Facebook may lead people to obsess about their weight in ways that could prove dangerous.

“As people spend more time thinking about what’s wrong with their bodies, less time is spent on the positive realm and engaging in life in meaningful and fulfilling ways,” Dr. Steven Crawford said.

“When people become more concerned with the image they project online and less concerned with holistic markers of health in real life, their body image may suffer and they may even turn, or return, to harmful fad diets or dangerous weight-control behaviors.”

As Meslema writes, Facebook photo  comparisons are also affecting the social lives of Facebook users. Like celebrities who worry about the paparazzi, Facebook users are concerned every time they go out that their photo will show up on the network.

“Facebook is fueling a “camera-ready” mentality,” Crawford said. “People look at photos before an upcoming high school reunion and decide not to go.” Why? Because they think they don’t look good enough.

The center also suggests some tips for people suffering from Facebook-induced body envy, including subscribing to Facebook pages such as “Adios Barbie” and “End Fat Talk.” But if you can’t stop making negative comparisons between yourself and others, you’d better log off.

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