Unseen Danger: Teen Eating Disorders Linked to Social Media Use
June 8, 2016

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently conducted a study that uncovered a link between social media use and possible teen eating disorders or disordered eating. Researchers found that young people who spent a greater amount of their day on social media platforms–Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.–were more than twice as likely to develop body image issues and/or unhealthy eating habits (like teen eating disorders).

Teen eating disorders defined

About 3 percent of all teenagers (13 to 18 years old) struggle with a teen eating disorder at some point, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. Teen eating disorders range from bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, and other mental health problems linked to a distorted view of their body and disordered eating.

Eating disorders tend to develop in young adults and adolescents at a greater rate than other age groups. Yet general disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, and negative body image affects a wider range of ages and people. This has been confirmed in studies of teenagers’ view of their bodies and eating habits. In many, it was found that 50 percent of girls and 30 percent of boys have used unhealthy means of losing pounds (ex. Skipping meals), which has the potential to morph into teen eating disorders.

Researchers explain the link

“It could be that young adults who use more social media are exposed to more images and messages that encourage development of disordered eating.” —Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences

Researchers are familiar with the effect traditional forms of media has on the development of teen eating disorders, body image concerns, and disordered eating. They explain this effect is probably due to the media’s favoring of “thin” and “perfect” celebrities or models. Social media is a different type of beast, though.

Social media has the power to combine visuals with interaction, such as posting photos and editing them to look thinner. Then they see positive comments and have a possibility of assuming it’s because they look thinner.

For more information about helping your daughter struggling with teen eating disorders, please check out ViewPoint Center.

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