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The Association between Social Media Use and Eating Concerns among US Young Adults

Sidani, JE and Shensa, A and Hoffman, Beth L. and Hanmer, J and Primack, BA (2016) The Association between Social Media Use and Eating Concerns among US Young Adults. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116 (9). pp. 1465-1472. ISSN 22122672

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Background. Although the etiology of eating concerns is multi-factorial, exposure to media messages is considered to be a contributor. While traditional media, such as television and magazines, have been examined extensively in relation to risk for eating concerns, the influence of social media has received relatively less attention.

Objective. To examine the association between social media use and eating concerns in a large, nationally representative sample of young adults.

Design. Cross-sectional survey.

Participants/setting. Participants were 1765 young adults ages 19-32, who were randomly selected from a national probability-based online non-volunteer panel.

Outcome measures. An eating concerns scale was adapted from two validated measures: the SCOFF Questionnaire and the Eating Disorder Screen for Primary Care (ESP). Social media use was assessed using both volume (time per day) and frequency (visits per week).

Statistical analyses. To examine associations between eating concerns and social media use, ordered logistic regression was used, controlling for all covariates.

Results. Compared to those in the lowest quartile, participants in the highest quartiles of time per day and visits per week had significantly greater odds of having eating concerns (AOR = 2.18, 95% CI = 1.50 - 3.17 and AOR = 2.55, 95% CI = 1.72 - 3.78, respectively). There were significant overall linear associations between the social media use variables and eating concerns (P < 0.001).

Conclusions. The results from this study indicate a strong and consistent association between social media use and eating concerns in a nationally-representative sample of young adults ages 19 to 32. This association was apparent whether social media use was measured using time per day or visits per week. Further research should assess the temporality of these associations. It would also be useful to examine more closely the influence of specific characteristics of social media use—including content-related and contextual features.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sidani, JEjes107@pitt.eduJES107
Shensa, Aariel.shensa@pitt.eduARS146
Hoffman, Beth L.blh72@pitt.eduBLH72
Hanmer, Jjzh23@pitt.eduJZH23
Primack, BAbprimack@pitt.eduBPRIMACK
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health
Date: September 2016
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Volume: 116
Number: 9
Page Range: pp. 1465-1472
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.03.021
Schools and Programs: School of Medicine > Medicine
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 22122672
Official URL:
Funders: National Cancer Institute
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2018 13:28
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 05:15


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