The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
All those images of beautiful-looking people on social media can deflate a young person’s self-image, but there may be an easy fix: limiting time spent on TikTok, Instagram, and the like.
A new Canadian study finds that teens and young adults who already had symptoms of anxiety or depression and who cut their social media usage by about 50% experienced a significant improvement in how they felt about their overall appearance in just a few weeks. They also felt better about their weight.
In a news release about the study, lead author Gary Goldfield, a senior scientist with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, said that whether people who already have body and mental health issues simply spend more time on social media or whether social media leads to greater issues had not been known.
For this study, the researchers worked with 220 undergraduate students ages 17 to 25. About 76% were women, 23% men and 1% other.
Participants needed to regularly use social media for at least two hours each day on their smartphones.
Each was asked to respond to statements about their appearance, such as “I’m pretty happy about the way I look” or “I am satisfied with my weight” on a 5-point scale at the start and end of the experiment.
During the first week, all participants were asked to use social media as they typically would. A screen-time tracking program measured their usage.
After that, half were asked to use social media for no more than 60 minutes a day.
The participants who were asked to restrict their social media usage got it down to 78 minutes a day on average. The control group averaged 188 minutes daily.
After three weeks, those who reduced their social media usage had a significant improvement in how they regarded their overall appearance and body weight after the intervention, compared with the control group, which saw no significant change, the researchers said.
The study findings were published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media.