'Selfie' Study Examining Link Between Editing Photos And Eating Disorders

Body image research

'Selfie' Study Examining Link Between Editing Photos And Eating Disorders

Research is currently underway to determine the relationship between selfies and eating disorders, with the responses of thousands of teens to be followed over a five-year period.

A $260,000 grant from the Turnbull Government will see the data collected to learn more about eating disorders and how there may be links between selfies and body image - which is in contrast to most research which looks more broadly at social media in general.

While research has been done on general social media behaviours, it is only in the last one or two years that research has focused on photo-based activities.

Alexandra Lonergan, PhD candidate at Macquarie University, told the Hit Newsroom that there's a huge difference between scrolling through Facebook and posting a heavily edited selfie online. 

"In particular, how many times people are taking selfies, what they're doing to manipulate photos and how invested they are into their actual selfies," Ms Lonergan said.

"Last year we found that around 80 - 90 per cent of students said that they were posting selfies.

"There's no reason to think that posting a selfie is inherently bad - and some research is starting to tell us now that posting a selfie might not be the worst thing for your mental health or your body image.

"It's more about how you interact with that photo. So if you are smoothing your skin or changing the shape of your waist - or for boys that might be making themselves look taller or enhancing their chest muscles - and doing a lot of that sort of editing on an app.

"Then posting the selfie and looking at the 'likes' and comments - and that's how we think it might be interfering with a healthy body image."

Body image is in the top three concerns of young people according to Mission Australia research, and the teens who are participating in the study will be asked about topics such as bullying, relationships with parents, sexual orientation and social media behaviours.

"Body image and eating disorders are almost inherently linked, and people who do have problematic eating behaviours will almost always have body dissatisfaction."

If you or someone you know needs help, contact LifeLine on 13 11 14.