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How Does Social Media Impact Body Image Issues?

by Coffee Table Science


The American Psychological Association in Feb 2023 has found that teenagers and youngsters who reduced their social media usage by fifty percent saw an improvement in how they felt about themselves, their weight, and their personality compared to  those who continued to use the social media platforms.


Image credit Pexels 

Adolescence and body image issues

The age of adolescence is a delicate one where a teenager moves into a more mature understanding of things around him/her. It is a period where the body develops and with it body image issues also arise since everyone has different body types. At this age, adolescents are more exposed to social media which makes them desire a nice body like those of actresses, models, and international stars. This makes them uncomfortable with their body and they start disliking its shape, their weight, etc. However much of the research focuses on the correlation between body image and mental health. It is still a question whether people with body image and mental health issues spend more time on social media or if using social media affects them to remain confident in their bodies. 

What was the result shown by the study?

Gary Goldfield Ph.D. of Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute conducted a small study with thirty-eight undergraduate students who were suffering from a certain level of anxiety or depression. Some of these participants were asked to cut their social media usage and bring it to one hour per day, while others were not confined to any limit. After three weeks the participants who restricted their screen usage showed significant improvement in how they felt about their bodies excluding their weight. 

The study then approached undergraduate students aged between 17-25, who actively used social media for at least two hours per day but showed symptoms of depression or anxiety. For the first week, the students were not restricted to use any of their social media. The screen time was measured through their screenshots.

Image credits Pixabay 

From the second week, most of them were told to restrict their social media to not use it for more than one hour per day. The records were gathered through a questionnaire with a scale of 1-5 range. After three weeks the participants who cut off their social media use showed an improvement in how they felt about their overall body image in comparison to the other students who didn’t restrict. Gender was seen to be a non-affecting factor in the study. 

Hence the study by recording screen time, showed that reducing social media use showed positive results in how youngsters feel about their appearance and weight. This proved that reducing social media use is a viable method that can produce a short-term positive effect on body image and should be treated as a potential component in the treatment of aggravations related to body image.  

The researchers are in the process of conducting a larger sub study on the ion social media use can be maintained for longer periods and screen time reduction can lead to better psychological benefits.

The study was published by The American Psychological Association

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