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Heavy Facebook Use Ups Risk for Eating Disorders

posted 09:35 PM EST, Wed March 09, 2011

Got a teen daughter that spends hours a day glued to Facebook? Well, watch out, because according to some research out of Israel, girls who spend more time on the social networking site are at greater risk to experience an eating disorder.

University of Haifa Researchers, led by Professor Yael Latzer, say that the more time an adolescent girl spends on Facebook, the greater her chances of experiencing an eating disorder.

The Study

Haifa University researchers asked 248 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 about their social media and television viewing habits and then had each girl fill out a questionnaire on personal dieting habits, body image, bulimia, physical well being and sense of empowerment.

The Results

  • The more time a girl spends on Facebook, the greater her chance of anorexia, bulimia, unhealthy dieting patterns, poor body image and an unhealthy attitude about food.
  • Spending a lot of time looking at online fashion or music videos also increased a girl’s risk of some, but not as many, problems with food
  • Parents who were involved in their children’s online activities and discussed online content with their children had girls who experienced greater personal empowerment and strengthened body image
  • Parents who banned or limited Facebook use were more likely to have girls with less personal empowerment

The researchers call for further research on how differing parenting strategies, such as over internet usage, can help to reduce the odds of eating disorders.

The researchers haven’t convinced everyone, however. A spokesperson for Facebook disputed the conclusions drawn, particularly given the study’s limited sample size and argued that time spent on Facebook was time spent with friends and relatives from real life – rather than time spent viewing models or actors who represent difficult to attain ideals of beauty, and that, “Far from exacerbating self esteem problems, Facebook gives people closer contact with a network of supportive friends and family, the people this report’s authors say are best equipped to help people though eating disorders.”

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  • Facebook and Eating Disorders: One researcher says that spending more time on FB puts teen girls at increased risk of an eating disorder.
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