New Study Finds Dating App Users More Likely to Have Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders and Online Dating

A new study from Harvard University found that when people use dating apps, they are 2.7 to 16.2 percent more likely to have an eating disorder than those who don’t use the apps.

Researchers from Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health reported that those who used dating apps were more likely to abuse laxatives or use “unhealthy weight management practices,” according to a report from CNBC regarding the study.

Dating apps like Tinder and others feature photos prominently, with users swiping left and right based on how a potential match looks. This points to why dating app users might be more self-conscious about their bodies and try unhealthy tactics to lose weight.

“Individual dating app users are continuously engaging in a cycle in which they are evaluating profile pictures and brief descriptions of others, yet are being subject to scrutiny themselves,” wrote Dr. Alvin Tran, a postdoctoral associate at the Yale School of Medicine and author of the study. He also pointed out that while dating apps are helpful in socializing, they can also be used for unhealthy behaviors like discrimination and body shaming.

However, Tran also said more research was needed to explore the subject further, and a direct link could not be proved, since some of the respondents might already have had an eating disorder prior to using a dating app, according to BBC News.

The survey questions included specifics, asking respondents if they engaged in any of the following six behaviors over the period of a year: vomiting, fasting and use of laxatives, diet pills, muscle building supplements and anabolic steroids. They were also asked if they used dating apps.

According to the report, 17% of women respondents and 33% of men said they used dating apps. The biggest percentage reported that they had fasted – 44.8% of women and 54.1% of men, followed by 22.4% of women and 36.4% of men purposefully vomiting, and 24% of women and 41.1% of men reported using laxatives.

Also of concern in the study was the effect dating apps have on women, who were particularly vulnerable as CNBC pointed out. Women who use dating apps are 2.3 to 26.9 times more likely to have eating disorders which include self-induced vomiting, fasting and using diet pills and laxatives, according to the report.

Men aren’t immune to employing unhealthy weight loss tactics for dating apps, either. They are 3.2 to 14.6 times more likely to abuse laxatives or use steroids, according to researchers.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,700 adults in the U.S. between 18 and 65 years of age.