The Common Habit That Could Totally Warp Your Body Image

Young adults who engage in this behavior the most could be at a higher risk of developing eating disorders and body image problems, according to new research.

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Photo by Tara Moore / Getty Images

That feed of unrealistically slim models and even retouched selfies on your social media accounts doesn’t affect the way you look at your own body... right? Well, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, these images don’t just affect teens: you might be more likely to develop eating and body image problems the more you use social media, even as a young adult.



For the study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 1,765 U.S. adults between the ages of 19 and 32 were surveyed on their use of social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, among others. They were also screened for their risk of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or other mental health issues that have symptoms of disordered body image and eating.

Researchers found that those who used social media the most during the day (more than 121 minutes) were twice as likely to develop eating disorders and body image concerns than those who spent less time on social media (between 0 and 30 minutes). Additionally, those who checked social media the most throughout the week (more than 58 times) were almost three times as likely to develop a body image disorder than those who checked it the least (fewer than nine times). Most people in the study used social media for a little more than an hour during the day, and visited social media sites about 30 times a week. Researchers found these effects were constant across gender, age, race, and income.

“We’ve long known that exposure to traditional forms of media, such as fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of disordered eating and body image concerns, likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities,” study author Jaime E. Sidani said in a statement. “Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes that can lead to eating and body image concerns.”

Finding it hard to not let social media affect your life so much? Here, solutions for five tricky social media snafus.