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Social Media Use Tied to Disordered Eating in Young Teens

Association seen for both number of social media accounts and daily time spent using them

FRIDAY, Dec. 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Use of social media (SM), particularly platforms with a strong focus on images, is associated with disordered-eating (DE) thoughts and behaviors in young adolescents, according to a study published online Dec. 3 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Simon M. Wilksch, Ph.D., from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and colleagues assessed the relationship between SM use (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr) and DE using data from 996 seventh-grade and eighth-grade adolescents (534 girls; mean age, 13.1 years).

The researchers found that DE behaviors were reported by 51.7 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys, with strict exercise and meal skipping being the most common. The vast majority of children (75.4 percent of girls and 69.9 percent of boys) had at least one SM account, with Instagram being the most common. Global Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) scores were significantly higher among boys and girls with each type of SM account, except for Facebook and Instagram for girls. There was an association between a greater number of SM accounts and higher DE scores for both cognitions and behaviors. More daily time spent using Instagram was associated with significantly higher Global EDE-Q scores and DE behaviors for girls.

“A clear pattern of association was found between SM usage and DE cognitions and behaviors with this exploratory study confirming that these relationships occur at younger age than previously investigated,” the authors write.

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