It seems that the increase in usage of social media sites by young people is accompanied by the increase in eating disorders in the same age group.

 Figures prove that eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are on the increase within groups of young girls and less commonly but just as dangerously, within young boys, as is the usage of social media sites. Eating disorders such as binge eating and obesity are also on the rise, with Scotland being titled the fattest country in Europe. A worrying statistic which only appears to be becoming more and more evident within society. Perhaps our country obsesses with calories so much so that younger generations are forced to focus and base their lives around food, leading to an unhealthy obsession.

Between the years of 1990 and 2001 obesity rates in the UK trebled, meaning the country was quickly ranked the fattest in Europe and the fifth fattest in the world. Within the same years internet usage also trebled. A sickening statistic which can only bring a gloomy outlook to what it is doing to our countries health. We are constantly being told that this is the only generation in history that will be outlived by their parents. Is this, however, linked with a technological revolution and the growth of social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr? Can the evolution of the internet be equated with an increase in obesity rates? Perhaps the inactivity caused by such a large online-world, including video-games.

The term obesity means that an individual has a body mass index of either 30 or over and has been linked with the eating disorder binge-eating. With this in mind, a staggering 46% of British men and a huge 32% of British women are said to be obese. This means within our country there are around 10 million obese women and 9 million men are obese. An unimaginable number. So can this massive rise be solely blamed on social media? Nowadays poverty is also associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, including eating poorly and being overweight. Perhaps there could also be a link between the current economic down turn and obesity rather than just with social media. But it seems that in fact, the two probably coincide.

Other eating disorders on the rise are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. It is believed that there are 18 news cases of bulimia each year, and it is thought that 1-2% of girls are anorexic at any one time. It has recently been reported that girls as young as 5 have weight concerns and have thought about going on a diet. It seems that there is a link between eating disorders and the use of social media sites as 95 per cent of eating disorders are diagnosed in girls between the ages of 14 and 25, and the biggest chunk of users for social media websites such as Bebo, MySpace, Friendster and Facebook are between the ages of 18 and 24. Showing an overlap of 6 years between social media users and the most people vulnerable for becoming eating disorder sufferers.

Recently “thinspiration” websites have been cropping up all over the internet. And by using sites which rely on user-generated content it seems that the people behind these pages have no idea just what they are doing and what trouble they are causing. Social media websites such as Facebook have had to start removing “thinspiration” groups as they crop up on their site to try and stop the promotion of the mental illnesses. MySpace, however does not ban these sorts of groups, and in turn encourages them as some are seen as support groups for people with eating disorders. These sites and blogs which can be found on most social media websites host images, recipes, inspirational stories and tips. All of which seem to encourage an unhealthy perception of how a girls’ body should look.

Eating disorders are the most dangerous of any mental illness, killing more people than any other. And within anorexia sufferers it’s thought that a minute 30-40% of those with the disease, will ever recover. So is it enough to simply remove groups from Facebook? It seems a lot more will have to be done to help those affected by eating disorders.

7 Responses

  1. I totally see where your coming from. Half the reason i deleted my tumblr was because of the people I followed, who at one point used to post cool, interesting things then suddenly the majority of those were posting pictures of overly skinny girls and size 0 models. Im not going to deny that i was kind of roped into it as well, but one day thought enoughs enough, im never going to look like them so clicked delete! I know a few girls who have actually became peoples ‘thinspiration’ and I hate the way they idolise and ask for weight loss tips. So, I definitely think social media plays a huge part on the pressure to lose weight.

  2. I think this is such a current topic and something which has been taken out of hand with the help of socail networking and the internet in general. Young girls used to, and still do, look up to catwalk models as inspiration and a goal for themselves.
    I think the way in which the internet has become more accessable for teens and young adults has fuelled this problem, and glamourised eating disorders.
    Young girls and boys can stare at these pictures for hours,fantasising about being their “dream weight”, but with no knowledge of the damaging consequences to their bodies.
    With many websites being blocked, why have these thinspiration sites not been blocked yet?

  3. I watched Fearne Cotton’s doc a while back on this which, believe it or not, is quite good. If you haven’t already seen it, have a wee look. In reference to that second comment, the documentary is very useful in terms of getting some understanding of the sites creators as well as the users. I think it’s important to remember that this is a disorder that is almost frowned upon and can be very misjudged. That’s not to say I am in support of such things, of course not, just something quite interesting. Clearly this is an interesting topic and article; you’ve got me ranting.

  4. Well done! Social websites are indeed influencing people who lack self-confidence and not in a good way, cause it’s all about comparing each other in a way…. Seems like there’s a chance to dig even deeper into this and find out great info about modern society.

  5. Definitely!! Usually the people behind these sites and pictures are really ill, and don’t see what harm it’s doing and we shouldn’t judge or blame them.But I definitely think Tumblr has become an exhibition of skinny models who people look up to.

  6. Great article. There’s hardly any regulation on these sites and nothing stopping younger and younger girls accessing them. I’ve seen thinspiration sites before and they’re really good at playing on your insecurities and drawing you in. It truly is a disease but these sites are hindering the cure outright.

  7. Thinspiration is scary, because of how skewed people’s self esteem must be to believe it. It’s obviously a big issue, but it’s difficult to know where to begin to change it.

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