*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
The more often young teens turn to social media, the more prone they are to eating disorders, new research suggests.
While the study does not prove social media use causes eating disorders, it raises a red flag, said study author Simon Wilksch. He’s a senior research fellow in psychology at Flinders University, in South Australia.
The study looked at close to 1,000 middle school students and their use of four social media networks: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr. The researchers found the teens favored the use of Instagram and Snapchat, which use video and photos to communicate.
“The core cognitive [mental] component of disordered eating is the placing of great importance on one’s body shape, weight, food intake or exercise,” Wilksch said. “Young adolescence is a time of both peer influences and appearance being very important, so it’s not hard to see how people this age could become very focused on how they are perceived online.”
Among the students studied, strict exercise, skipping meals and other behaviors associated with eating disorders were reported by almost 52% of girls and 45% of boys. Of all the teens, over 75% of girls and nearly 70% of boys had at least one social media account. A greater number of social media accounts were associated with higher scores for both thoughts and behaviors linked to eating disorders.
“I can say that the presence of disordered eating behaviors in boys in the current study was nearly four times higher than found two decades ago in another Australian study,” Wilksch said. “Also, in my eating disorder treatment clinic, I am seeing many more young males than previously. And for approximately a third of these, muscle-building is a significant concern.”
The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.