TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – The findings of a new study indicate that looking at the social networking site Facebook might increase eating disorder risks in some users.

Researchers at Florida State University were said to have observed the health and Internet habits of 960 women in college for the study.

The pool of participants was split in two, with half tasked with spending 20 minutes on Facebook while the others watched educational videos and read Wikipedia entries about ocelots. While looking at their respectively assigned sites, the women involved were not allowed to look at any other pages.

What researchers found when speaking with each participant after the 20 minutes had elapsed alarmed them.

“Women who spent 20 minutes on Facebook reported greater maintenance of weight and shape concerns and greater increases in anxiety compared to women in the control condition, which demonstrates that Facebook is influencing well-established eating disorder risk factors,” the study’s lead author and FSU professor Palema Keel was quoted as saying by CNet.

Keel and her team expressed concern regarding the effects of browsing social networking sites on those who do so – especially in regards to the risk of developing an eating disorder.

“Now it’s not the case that the only place you’re seeing thin and idealized images of women in bathing suits is on magazine covers,” Keel said in a statement obtained by CNet. “Now your friends are posting carefully curated photos of themselves on their Facebook page that you’re being exposed to constantly.”

She added: “It represents a very unique merging of two things that we already knew could increase risk for eating disorders.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.


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