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NEWS
Fitness influencers have a negative impact on mental health
POSTED 28 May 2024 . BY Kath Hudson
Social media health influencers can help change behaviour but can also cause mental distress Credit: Shutterstock/Dean Drobot
Research shows that social media health influencers may help behaviour change, but at the expense of mental health
Health influencer followers tend to eat more fruit and vegetables and exercise more vigorously
But mental health suffers, as influencers perpetuate the fit ideal and unrealistic body image
Health influencer followers show more depression and anxiety than non-followers
New research shows that following social media health influencers motivates young people to exercise more vigorously and eat more fruit and vegetables, but their mental health often suffers.

Healthier But Not Happier? The Lifestyle Habits of Health Influencer Followers, published in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, was a cross-sectional study of 1,022 18 to 25-year-olds across New Zealand, the US and the UK, who completed a survey in 2021 about their lifestyle habits, including measures of social media usage, dietary and exercise habits and mental health.

Results showed that health influencer followers reported more vigorous exercise, higher fruit and vegetable intake and better well-being, but also greater distress – depression, anxiety and negative mood, compared to non-followers. Age, gender, ethnicity, education level, socioeconomic status and body mass index were taken into consideration.

Higher distress was especially pronounced among those who followed food or diet-related health influencers. Following health influencers appeared to disrupt the typical protective relationship between health behaviours and distress and more vigorous physical activity was associated with higher distress levels, compared to non-followers.

Influencers are often perceived as more credible, trustworthy, knowledgeable, authentic and attractive than traditional messaging channels, which might make them more effective in health behaviour engagement.

Possible harms identified with health influencers include reinforcing the fit ideal and presenting unrealistic body images, which are both associated with increased body dissatisfaction, depressive symptoms and compulsive levels of exercise and obsession with particular diets. Compulsive exercise and appearance-related motivations to exercise and eat well can disrupt the typical positive relationship between healthy behaviours and mental health.

Social media usage has also been correlated with poor adolescent wellbeing, decrements in body image and poorer mental health. The report says: “use of visual platforms like Instagram may be particularly harmful to mental health because they focus on appearance, which drives social comparison and negative body image.”

The research authors conclude that although health influencers may be effective at changing behaviours, more research is needed before recommending them as such.

What's your view of influencers? Are they useful in inspiring behaviour change? Do they wield too much power? Email us at [email protected]
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People might think they’re joining the gym to lose weight but according to ACE’s Dr Erin Nitschke dig deeper and you find it’s actually the other health benefits they want. She and eating disorder expert, Eva Musby, say it’s time to step away from diet culture and shift the focus to fun and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.
  FEATURE: Insight: Eating disorders: finding a balance


The pandemic has prompted an escalation in eating disorders, with some sufferers over-exercising. Kath Hudson looks at how the industry can respond
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News   Products   Magazine   Subscribe
NEWS
Fitness influencers have a negative impact on mental health
POSTED 28 May 2024 . BY Kath Hudson
Social media health influencers can help change behaviour but can also cause mental distress Credit: Shutterstock/Dean Drobot
Research shows that social media health influencers may help behaviour change, but at the expense of mental health
Health influencer followers tend to eat more fruit and vegetables and exercise more vigorously
But mental health suffers, as influencers perpetuate the fit ideal and unrealistic body image
Health influencer followers show more depression and anxiety than non-followers
New research shows that following social media health influencers motivates young people to exercise more vigorously and eat more fruit and vegetables, but their mental health often suffers.

Healthier But Not Happier? The Lifestyle Habits of Health Influencer Followers, published in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, was a cross-sectional study of 1,022 18 to 25-year-olds across New Zealand, the US and the UK, who completed a survey in 2021 about their lifestyle habits, including measures of social media usage, dietary and exercise habits and mental health.

Results showed that health influencer followers reported more vigorous exercise, higher fruit and vegetable intake and better well-being, but also greater distress – depression, anxiety and negative mood, compared to non-followers. Age, gender, ethnicity, education level, socioeconomic status and body mass index were taken into consideration.

Higher distress was especially pronounced among those who followed food or diet-related health influencers. Following health influencers appeared to disrupt the typical protective relationship between health behaviours and distress and more vigorous physical activity was associated with higher distress levels, compared to non-followers.

Influencers are often perceived as more credible, trustworthy, knowledgeable, authentic and attractive than traditional messaging channels, which might make them more effective in health behaviour engagement.

Possible harms identified with health influencers include reinforcing the fit ideal and presenting unrealistic body images, which are both associated with increased body dissatisfaction, depressive symptoms and compulsive levels of exercise and obsession with particular diets. Compulsive exercise and appearance-related motivations to exercise and eat well can disrupt the typical positive relationship between healthy behaviours and mental health.

Social media usage has also been correlated with poor adolescent wellbeing, decrements in body image and poorer mental health. The report says: “use of visual platforms like Instagram may be particularly harmful to mental health because they focus on appearance, which drives social comparison and negative body image.”

The research authors conclude that although health influencers may be effective at changing behaviours, more research is needed before recommending them as such.

What's your view of influencers? Are they useful in inspiring behaviour change? Do they wield too much power? Email us at [email protected]
RELATED STORIES
FEATURE: Research: Change the record


People might think they’re joining the gym to lose weight but according to ACE’s Dr Erin Nitschke dig deeper and you find it’s actually the other health benefits they want. She and eating disorder expert, Eva Musby, say it’s time to step away from diet culture and shift the focus to fun and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.
FEATURE: Insight: Eating disorders: finding a balance


The pandemic has prompted an escalation in eating disorders, with some sufferers over-exercising. Kath Hudson looks at how the industry can respond
MORE NEWS
Report identifies diversity, equity and inclusion challenges in health club sector
Diversity, equity and inclusion in the European fitness industry is examined in a new report which provides eye-opening findings and a starting point for change.
RLA Global: Wellness hotels experience positive growth trend globally in 2023
Hotels incorporating wellness amenities experienced a significant boost in Total Revenue per Available Room (TRevPAR) in 2023, according to the latest Wellness Real Estate Report by RLA Global, produced in partnership with P&L benchmarking firm HotStats.
World leaders gather at luxury Italian wellness retreat Borgo Egnazia for G7 Summit
The 2024 G7 Summit is now underway at a destination spa resort in Puglia, Italy, with leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US convening to address some of the world’s most urgent issues.
Minor devises new medi-wellness concept for Anantara, debuting in Phuket in Q3
Minor Hotels CEO Dillip Rajakarier has unveiled plans to introduce an innovative medi-wellness concept to the group's Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas brand, with ambitions to expand the concept to additional resorts in the future.
Global Wellness Day 2024 shatters records as 1 billion people unite for wellness and nature
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FEATURED SUPPLIERS

From digital trends to real-world sustainability, Spa Life has it all
Spa Life International® Conventions are intimate, business-focussed events, created exclusively for senior spa and wellness professionals looking for a more targeted, cost- effective way of doing business. [more...]

Discover the perfect blend of style, innovation and flexibility with Living Earth Crafts’ Insignia 2.0 Ellipse
Living Earth Crafts has launched the new Insignia 2.0 Ellipse™ Multi-purpose Treatment Table, combining award-winning comfort and striking design aesthetics with operational excellence. [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
Hydrafacial

Founded in 1997, Hydrafacial has grown to become one of the world’s leading skin health brands. [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  

DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

22-22 Jun 2024

World Bathing Day

Worldwide,
22-24 Jun 2024

IECSC Las Vegas

Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, United States
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS