Social Media and Your Mental Health: How to Protect a Healthy Body Image

Social Media and Your Mental Health: How to Protect a Healthy Body Image

Getting offline and eating breakfast with parents can help, studies show.

On average, North Americans spend about two hours and change each day scrolling through social media. That adds up quickly to about 15 hours every week. Certainly it’s not helping our physical health, as we largely view our screens while being sedentary. But what about our mental health?

The results of studies are discouraging. According to research done at York University in Canada, when young women actively engage with images of friends on social media that they consider to be more attractive than themselves, they report feeling worse about their own appearance, afterwards.

“The results showed that these young adult women felt more dissatisfied with their bodies,” said Jennifer Mills, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at York. “Even if they felt bad about themselves before they came into the study, on average, they still felt worse after completing the task.”

Other work has found similar results.

Related: Why You Should Count Macros, Not Calories

A study done at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Health Sciences found greater social media use is tied to a higher risk of developing eating disorders and body image concerns.

Participants who spent the most time on social media had double the risk of reporting eating and appearance concerns, compared with peers who spent less time.

What helps?

Besides spending less time online looking at other people, experts have some specific tips. Talk with teens, family and friends about positive body image. If you spot concerning behaviour, consult with your doctor.

And if you’re a parent of a teen, eat breakfast with your kids. Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia say it can do the trick, and could have a significant impact on well-being.

For more on social media use and health, click here.

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