Updated 29 July 2015

Does Facebook encourage dangerous diets?

A study finds that women who have an emotional connection to Facebook are more likely to compare their bodies to others' and they're more at risk to engage in risky dieting.


A new study provides insight into how Facebook use by young women can lead to poor body image and risky dieting. The study shows that the risk is highest for women who use social media site to compare themselves to friends.

How the study was done

The study included 128 college-aged women who completed an online survey about their eating habits and their emotional connection to Facebook - such as how much time they spent on the social networking site and number of Facebook friends - and whether they compared their bodies to friends' bodies in online photos.

Women who had a greater emotional connection to Facebook were more likely to compare their bodies to their friends' bodies and to engage in more risky dieting, the study found.

Read: Is social media bad for your mental health?

However, those who did not use the site to compare themselves to others were less likely to be concerned about body image or engage in risky dieting, the research showed.

The University of North Carolina School of Medicine study is published in the August issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"I think that Facebook could be an amazing tool to nurture social support and connections with friends and families. And if you're getting that kind of social support from the site, you might be less likely to be worried about your body size," senior author Stephanie Zerwas, assistant professor of psychiatry, said in a university news release.

"But if you're using it as a measuring stick to measure how your body appears in pictures compared to your friend's body, Facebook could also be used as a tool to foster dangerous dieting behavior," she added.

Read more

Facebook toys with your emotions

Facebook can make women feel bad about their bodies

Image issues? Blame it on Facebook



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