A clear pattern of association was found between social media (SM) usage and disordered eating (DE) cognitions and behaviours with the following exploratory study confirming that these relationships occur at a younger age than previously investigated.
Background: The relationship between SM use and DE has not been adequately explored in young adolescents.
Methods: Data from 996 Grade 7 and 8 adolescents (n = 534 girls; median age = 13.08) was investigated. DE cognitions (Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire [EDE-Q]), DE behaviours (Project Eating Among Teens), and SM use measures related to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr were completed.
Results: DE behaviours were reported by 51.7% of girls and 45.0% of boys, with strict exercise and meal skipping the most common. A total of 75.4% of girls and 69.9% of boys had at least one SM account where Instagram was the most common, used by 68.1% of girls and 61.7% of boys. Global EDE-Q scores were significantly higher for girls and boys with each type of SM account, except for Facebook and Instagram for girls. A greater number of SM accounts was associated with higher DE scores for both cognitions and behaviours. Girls with Snapchat and Tumblr accounts and boys with Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram were significantly more likely to have both DE behaviours and over-evaluation of shape and weight in the clinical range. Greater daily time spent using Instagram was associated with significantly higher Global EDE-Q scores and DE behaviours for girls, while this pattern was also found for Snapchat usage and DE behaviours for girls.