Spending too much time scrolling on social media can have negative effects on how women view their bodies.

According to a study, young women are more likely to want to undergo cosmetic surgery if they spend hours scrolling through Instagram.

Experts from the University of Surrey surveyed 247 Italian women — each aged between 19–32 — about their engagement with Instagram and body dissatisfaction.

Next, each participant was shown one of four videos of Instagram images — with varying degrees of sexualisation — and their associated comments.

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Finally, the women completed follow-up questionnaires concerning their level of body dissatisfaction, mood and future cosmetic surgery intentions.

The team found that exposure to sexualised imagery from Instagram tended to increase the women’s levels of body dissatisfaction.

Similar detrimental effects were not seen among those individuals who were only shown non-sexualised images. Comments, additionally, appeared to have no effect.

The research was conducted by social psychologist Francesca Guizzo of the University of Surrey and colleagues.

‘This is an exciting study that brings together different dimensions in mental health research and highlights risk factors,’ said Dr Guizzo.

‘Findings such as these show there is a clear link between the sexualised imagery young women are exposed to on Instagram and how they feel about themselves.

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‘Given Instagram’s popularity as one of the world’s most popular social media platforms and the increasing prevalence of cosmetic procedures, these findings are of particular interest.

‘More needs to be done to counteract body negativity; actions such as spreading body positivity messaging may work to improve female body satisfaction.’

‘We’ve been working on several initiatives to help improve wellbeing and promote body positivity on Facebook and Instagram,’ a Facebook spokesperson told Daily Mail.

These, they explained, include ‘testing the removal of likes to help minimise comparison culture, through to the removal and restriction of certain diet products and cosmetic procedures.’

‘We’ve collaborated with the JED Foundation on the ‘Pressure to be Perfect’ campaign, to support positive teen expression on social media.

‘This year we partnered with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and some of Instagram’s most popular creators on our #AllBodiesAreWelcome campaign.

Photo by Hannah Xu on Unsplash

‘The series of Reels encourages people to reconsider what body image means to different people, how to manage social comparison on social media, and how to find support and community.

‘This follows our #ComeAsYouAre movement, also launched in collaboration with NEDA, which aims to let individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery know that their stories are valid, and to encourage them to share their whole stories — the real, the mess, the un-perfect moment.’

‘This valuable new research adds to the weight of evidence about the harmfulness of the sexualised images of people that are so common on social media,’ commented Mental Health Foundation manager Katrina Jenkins.

‘It also echoes the findings of our own research with a diverse range of adults, who urged us to work to counter the effects of such imagery.

‘We created our ‘Mind Over Mirror’ campaign accordingly, offering tips and strategies to address this challenge. For instance, it can be useful to be mindful of what we view on social media and how it makes us feel.

‘Unfollowing Instagram pages that encourage negative self-comparisons can also help us to take control over the effect of social media on our body image and mental health,’ she concluded.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Body Image.