Is TikTok To Blame For Huge Increase In Eating Disorders?

Could your social media addiction be giving you an eating disorder?  Researchers in Queensland have discovered a concerning connection between this rise in social media and an alarming increase in eating disorders.

On today’s episode of The Briefing,  Dr Veya Seekis from Griffith University breaks down the numbers with Katrina Blowers.

Back in 2000, shortly after the introduction of MSN messenger, Queensland recorded 361 cases of young people and 977 cases of adults admitted to hospitals with suspected eating disorders.

Fast forward to 2021, and the numbers have skyrocketed to a staggering 8,468 cases of eating disorder admissions in Queensland hospitals.

Interestingly, this troubling increase seems to align with the emergence of various social media platforms. Admissions surged after Facebook’s launch in 2004, YouTube and Bebo in 2005, and Instagram and Snapchat in 2010 and 2011.

The most significant spike occurred after the arrival of TikTok in 2016, with admissions jumping from 3,000 to over 5,000 in just two years.

During the TikTok era, admissions for eating disorders saw a 92% increase among children and a 52% increase among adults. Dr. Veya Seekis from Griffith University explains that TikTok’s powerful algorithm, combined with its popularity among vulnerable young audiences, contributes to this alarming trend.

“Seven minutes of exposure to beauty content on TikTok, which includes beauty tutorials, and skincare routines. Even, unfortunately, baby Botox journeys for young girls. We found that just seven minutes of exposure to that type of content increased appearance, anxiety, appearance shame, and it decreased self-compassion and positive mood.”

The platform often promotes content related to dieting, weight loss, and appearance rather than overall health, which can foster a harmful body image culture.

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The Butterfly National Helpline offers free and confidential support for anyone concerned about eating disorders or body image issues. They are open 8am –midnight (AEST/AEDT), seven days. Phone: 1800 ED HOPE