Allison Carter is a PhD candidate in the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences

Higher Internet use linked to increased body dissatisfaction among young Canadian women

February 20, 2017

The more time young Canadian women spend using the Internet, the more likely they are dissatisfied with their bodies.

That’s according to a study led by SFU health sciences researcher Allison Carter, which reveals that Canadian females aged 12 to 29 are more likely to experience body dissatisfaction if they spend more than 20 hours using the Internet per week. This is the first nationally representative study to evaluate the relationship between Internet use and body dissatisfaction among girls and young women in Canada.

“Based on our survey of 3,000 young Canadian women, we found one in five spends more than 20 hours online each week outside of work or school,” says Carter. “These women reported body dissatisfaction at three times the rate of those connected for less than one hour per week. Women who spend 11 to 20 hours online were also more likely to be less satisfied with their bodies.”

The study also reveals women aged 25 to 29 years old report greater levels of dissatisfaction (21 per cent), versus those less than 14 years old (six per cent).

Carter says that the study findings indicate that Internet use is a risk factor for body dissatisfaction, which in turn is associated with a number of poor health outcomes including low self-esteem, depression, disordered eating and excessive exercise.

“The ubiquity of the Internet affirms the large role it will continue to play in the lives of Canadian youth. We need to help girls and young women engage with it in positive ways through, for example, limiting daily screen time, recognizing and resisting content that affects their self-esteem and body image and developing resilience and a healthy sense of identity beyond what appears on the outside.”

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