It seems like pretty much everyone who’s single and looking for love (or even a casual hookup) is on dating apps these days, and that makes sense since it’s the quickest and easiest way to meet people in your area without leaving the comfort of your couch. However, a new study reveals that there could be a major downside to logging on.
Swiping may not be so good for our health. The survey, published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, collected data from 1,769 American male and female adults and discovered that many of those who use dating apps are more likely to practice unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to control their weight.
Eating disorders are extremely prominent in online daters. Of the 1,769 participants, 183 women and 209 men reported using dating apps. Of that group, a whopping 50% of both genders admitted to fasting to control their weight. A large number of online daters also admitted to using laxatives, diet pills, steroids, muscle-building supplements, and vomiting.
The incidence of unhealthy weight loss measures seemingly works on a bias. Lead study author Dr. Alvin Tran from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston revealed that the number of dating app users who admitted to practicing these unhealthy weight loss and maintenance behaviors was significantly higher among ethnic minorities, though he said the cause of this couldn’t be determined from the collected data.
The shallowness of online dating is a big contributing factor to this problem. As Tran explained, “While we do not know if the people in our study were already engaging in these weight control behaviors before using dating apps, we worry that the use of these image and appearance-focused services could exacerbate those behaviors. With the tremendous growth in dating app usage in the US and an increasing number of studies linking their use to body image concerns and unhealthy weight control behaviors, there is a need to further understand how dating apps influence health behaviors and outcomes.”
Ultimately, more research needs to be done on the topic. As Tom Quinn, the director of external affairs at eating disorder charity Beat, told BBC News, “Not everyone who uses unhealthy weight control behaviors will have an eating disorder, nor will they get one, but such behaviors can contribute to the development of the illnesses for people who are already vulnerable and can prevent recovery for those who are ill. It is important to note that this research does not prove a causal link between dating apps and unhealthy weight control behaviors. Nevertheless, it is important that dating app users who may be at risk of eating disorders are directed to sources of support.”
It’s important to remember that beauty really is only skin deep. Eating disorders and unhealthy body image aren’t issues that are strictly confined to dating app users. Anyone can suffer from them, but it’s important to recognize that your worth doesn’t depend on your appearance and you’re uniquely beautiful just the way you are. It’s easier said than done to internalize that, of course, but the more you remind yourself of this, hopefully the more it will sink in.
If you’re struggling, there is help available. If you or someone you know is suffering with an eating disorder or practicing behaviors that may lead to a disorder, check out the National Eating Disorders Association for resources and help.
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