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Teenagers and young adults who cut their social media use in half experience a significant improvement in body image after just a few weeks, according to a new study.
A team of researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute conducted a study of 220 undergraduate students, aged 17-25, who were regular social media users and showing signs of anxiety and/or depression.
“Adolescence is a vulnerable period for the development of body image issues, eating disorders and mental illness,” said lead author Dr. Gary Goldfield of Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in a press release.
“Youth are spending, on average, between six to eight hours per day on screens, much of it on social media. Social media can expose users to hundreds or even thousands of images and photos every day, including those of celebrities and fashion or fitness models, which we know leads to an internalization of beauty ideals that are unattainable for almost everyone, resulting in greater dissatisfaction with body weight and shape,” Goldfield added.
Throughout the four-week experiment, half of the study group were instructed to reduce their social media by 50 percent, while the other half were allowed unrestricted access. At both the beginning and the end of the experiment, participants completed a survey containing a series of statements about their overall appearance, rating statements such as “I am satisfied with my weight” on a five-point scale.
Participants who reduced their social media use had a significant improvement in how they regarded both their overall appearance and body weight after three weeks of reduced social media use, compared with the control group, who saw no significant change. The sex of the participant did not appear to make any difference in the effects. 76 percent of the participants were female, 23 percent male, and 1 percent “other.”
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