The association between social media addiction and eating disturbances is mediated by muscle dysmorphia-related symptoms: a cross-sectional study in a sample of young adults

Claudio Imperatori, Angelo Panno, Giuseppe Alessio Carbone, Ornella Corazza, Ines Taddei, Laura Bernabei, Chiara Massullo, Elisabeth Prevete, Lorenzo Tarsitani, Massimo Pasquini, Benedetto Farina, Massimo Biondi, Francesco Saverio Bersani

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Abstract

PURPOSE: Although the association between problematic use of the internet and eating disorders (EDs) in young adults has been previously established, its underlying mechanisms have not been completely clarified. It has been suggested that exposure to idealized very thin and toned body images (e.g., "thinspiration" and "fitspiration" trends) on social media might lead to increased feelings of body dissatisfaction which, in turn, can represent a trigger for EDs. We have tested this hypothesis in a sample (N = 721) of young adults (504 females, mean age: 24.13 ± 3.70 years; range 18-34).

METHODS: Self-report measures investigating symptoms related to social media addiction (SMA), muscle dysmorphia (MD), and EDs were used. A mediational model analyzing the direct and indirect effects of SMA-related symptoms on ED-related symptoms through the mediating role of MD-related symptoms was performed controlling for confounding factors (e.g., socio-demographic variables, substances use, body mass index, psychopathological distress).

RESULTS: The model showed that the total effect of SMA-related symptoms on ED-related symptoms was significant (B = 0.213; p = 0.022) and that this association was mediated by MD-related symptoms (B = 0.083; p = 0.021).DISCUSSION: Our findings support the possibility that MD-related symptoms play a relevant role in mediating the association between SMA severity and ED pathology.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III, evidence obtained from well-designed cohort or case-control analytic studies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalEating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity
Early online date26 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jun 2021

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