Too much Facebook time can lead to eating disorders and body image issues, a new study found. And it's not just Facebook. Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites can also cause similar problems.

A research team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the association is present across all demographic groups. The findings suggested that an effective intervention must be targeted toward a broader audience.

"Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes," said lead author Jaime E. Sidani, Ph.D., M.P.H.

In 2014, the research team analyzed 1,765 American adults aged 19 and 32 years old. They asked the participants to answer questionnaires to describe their social media usage.

These questionnaires focused on the following social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine and Reddit.

Another questionnaire was used to determine the participants' risk of developing eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating.

The second questionnaire was also designed to analyze the risks of developing other clinical and mental disorders linked with eating disorders and body image issues.

Ironically, what they found was worth sharing on Facebook.

The people who spent the most time logged in on social media daily had 2.2 times the risk of developing body image issues and eating disorders.

Moreover, the ones who spent the most time frequently checking their social media feeds weekly carried 2.6 times the risk. These rates were compared directly with the ones who spent the least number of hours on social media.

The authors added that the study doesn't give a clear explanation if social media is a contributor to the development of the health and body image issues or if it's the other way around. Rather, what they found was simply an association.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded the study, which was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on May 5.

Photo: John Ragai | Flickr

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