Time on Facebook linked to adolescent eating disorders

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Eating disorders

Adolescents girls who spend time on Facebook are more likely to develop eating disorders and negative body image, suggests a new study.

In the study, conducted by Prof. Yael Latzer, Prof. Ruth Katz and Zohar Spivak of the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences at the University of Haifa, the researchers wanted to find out if exposure to media had an impact on eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and excessive dieting among adolescent girls.

The researchers surveyed 248 girls aged 12-19 about television and Internet viewing habits. Included were questionnaires about the girl's sense of personal empowerment, dieting, physical satisfaction and the number of shows they watched related to extreme body image, such as the "Barbie" image.

The findings showed more time spent on Facebook was associated with eating disorders from negative self-image and desire to lose weight among the adolescent girls. The study showed more exposure to fashion content on the Internet was linked to the same sort of tendencies toward bulimia and anorexia, but to a lesser degree.


Adolescent girls who reported more self-empowerment were less likely to develop an eating disorder that was also related to parental involvement. When parents surfed the Internet with the girls and discussed what was viewed, the girls were more likely to feel self-empowered, protecting them from eating disorders, negative body image and physical dissatisfaction. Conversely, when parents were not involved, the chance of negative body image and eating disorders was more likely.

The researchers note the findings show parents can empower adolescent girls who are vulnerable to developing eating disorders. “Significant potential for future research and application of eating disorder prevention lies in an understanding of how parenting decisions can have effect on an adolescent girl’s sense of empowerment and that enforcing a girl’s sense of empowerment is a means to strengthening body image. This study has shown that a parent has potential ability to prevent dangerous behavioral disorders and negative eating behavior in particular,” the researchers stated.

The new findings show a link between eating disorders in adolescent girls associated with more time spent on Facebook, with lack of parental involvement and discussion of the girl's viewing habits.

Source reference: University of Haifa