Eating disorders: influencers’ bodies dictating the diet of 3 out of 4 young people

Eating disorders: influencers’ bodies dictating the diet of 3 out of 4 young people

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Social networks, for the new generations, increasingly have a strong psychological conditioning power. They dictate thoughts, moods and behaviors. Not always in a positive way. It would all be the fault of the reference models who appear online, almost always devoted to perfection, especially physical.

A problem for 3 out of 4 kids

As many as 3 out of 4 young people, for example, use that of influencers and platform stars as a reference to evaluate their external appearance. With the consequence that almost 1 in 2 tends to change their eating habits to try to fit within those standards and 30% experiment with the advice on food and well-being proposed by many of them, to try to keep up with that type of physicist. An almost impossible mission: after all, those images are often retouched with omnipresent filters. Thus self-esteem is affected: 4 out of 10 have not wanted to leave the house for fear of other people’s judgement. While almost 1 in 3 has the habit of modifying the photos they publish on social media with filters and effects.

To highlight the relationship between young people and their bodies in the times of social media is a survey conducted by our reference portal Skuola.net together with the psychologists and psychotherapists of the Di.Te. Association, on a sample of 1,668 girls and boys between between 9 and 24 years old, and released on the occasion of National Lilac Bow Day 2024, dedicated to raising awareness of eating disorders. Now a real emergency, especially in the younger age groups, who on paper shouldn’t even have access to social media but who in reality bypass the age barriers.

According to the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, among the very young people who turn to the National Health Service Centers dedicated to these problems, as many as 59% are between 13 and 25 years old and a worrying 6% are under 12 years old. Furthermore, if access to services is 90% female, the impact of social media on the relationship with the body and food affects both genders without too many differences.

According to data from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità according to which, among those who access the National Health Service Centers dedicated to these problems, as many as 59% are between 13 and 25 years old and a worrying 6% are under 12 years old. Furthermore, if access to services is 90% female, the impact of social media on the relationship with the body and food affects both genders without too many differences.

There are many teenagers and young adults who let themselves be carried away by distorted models: 31% constantly compare their body with those dominant on social media, another 44% do so periodically. Even more disturbing is the fact that 46% of those interviewed adopt a specific diet with that comparison in mind: 16% do it often and willingly, 30% do it every now and then. And there is even a large segment of young people who try to imitate the lifestyle communicated by their idols via the web: 3 out of 10 have tried diets and workouts “sponsored” by one or more influencers (for 10% it is a which is frequent, 20% were experiments).

Eating disorders: which are the most common, how to recognize them and intervene

Don’t accept your body

Despite this, the lack of acceptance of one’s body remains something inherent in the Zeta and Alpha Generations. Proof of this is the fact that 40% of the girls and boys reached by the survey say that they sometimes find themselves in the position of not wanting to leave the house or avoid socializing opportunities because they are unsure of their physicality: for 23% this happens occasionally , for 17% it is a constant of life. A fact which, moreover, increases with age: between 9 and 14 years the percentage of those who tend to withdraw socially is 31%, between 15 and 19 years it rises to 43% and between 20 and 24 it even reaches at 60%.

The same happens in the digital dimension, with 27% saying they are dissatisfied with how their body appears in the “natural” photos and videos that end up online. And, probably for this reason, a similar share (34%), if they have the opportunity to do so, often tries to modify them or apply improving filters before publishing them. Much of the responsibility for such an approach, among other things, is attributed to social networks: 40% of young people think that the contents of social platforms negatively affect their self-esteem. And the older you get, the worse it gets: between 20 and 24 years old it reaches almost half, 46%.

Figuring out how to help these young people is not easy. Many of them prefer not to open up to the world: only just over a third (35%) have sought help or at least spoken to someone else about their problems with their body and nutrition: only 25% have done so with their parents , just 10% with a specialist.

“It becomes more and more difficult – he explains thus Daniele Grassucci, director of Skuola.net – ignore the correlation between the aesthetic models that are popular on social platforms and the bad relationship that a growing segment of young people have with food and the body. Yes it’s true, calendar models have always existed, but they weren’t the boy or girl next door. In fact, both I who access social media and the successful creator have in theory the same possibility of posting content, while only professionals ended up on the calendar. This undeniably generates comparisons which, combined with the pervasiveness of the platforms and the possibility of easily retouching images, are having a negative impact on an extremely vulnerable segment of the population when it comes to body, food and self-esteem”.

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