Association Between Internet Use and Body Dissatisfaction Among Young Females: Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Carter, A., Forrest, J. I., & Kaida, A. (2017). Association Between Internet Use and Body Dissatisfaction Among Young Females: Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey. Journal of medical Internet research, 19(2), e39. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.5636.

Date created: 
2017-02-17
Keywords: 
Body satisfaction
Internet use
Girls
Young women
Canada
Abstract: 

Background: Recent research suggests Internet exposure, including Facebook use, is positively correlated with body dissatisfaction, especially among girls and young women. Canada has one of the highest Internet access rates in the world, yet no previous study has examined this relationship using nationally representative data.

Objective: Our objective was to evaluate the relationship between Internet use and body dissatisfaction among a national, population-based sample of Canadian females 12-29 years of age.

Methods: We used cross-sectional data from the Canadian Community Health Survey 2011-2012. Body dissatisfaction was measured using a 5-point Likert scale and defined as “very dissatisfied/dissatisfied” with one’s body. The explanatory variable was time spent using the Internet per week in the past 3 months, ranging from none/<1 hour to >20 hours. We used multinomial logistic regression to investigate whether greater Internet use was associated with increasing odds of being very dissatisfied/dissatisfied, neutral, or satisfied with one’s body, using very satisfied as the referent. Probability survey sampling weights were applied to all analyses.

Results: Of 2983 included participants, sampled to represent 940,786 young Canadian females, most were 20-29 years old (61.98%) and living in households with an annual income Can $80,000 or more (44.61%). The prevalence of body dissatisfaction was 14.70%, and 25- to 29-year-olds were more likely than 12- to 14-year-olds to be very dissatisfied or dissatisfied with their body (20.76% vs 6.34%). Few (5.01%) reported none/<1 hour of Internet use, over half (56.93%) reported 1-10 hours, and one-fifth (19.52%) reported spending >20 hours online per week. Adjusting for age and income, the odds of being very dissatisfied/dissatisfied, relative to very satisfied, were greater in the highest versus lowest Internet use group (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 3.03, 95% CI 1.19-7.70). The AORs for this level of body dissatisfaction increased across increasing levels of Internet use, ranging from 0.88 (95% CI 0.35-2.21) to 3.03 (95% CI 1.19-7.70). Additionally, those who spent 11-14 hours online were more likely to be neutral (AOR 3.66, 95% CI 1.17-11.45) and those who spent 15-20 hours online were more likely to be neutral (AOR 4.36, 95% CI 1.18-16.13) or satisfied (AOR 2.82, 95% CI 1.14-7.01) with their bodies, relative to very satisfied, compared with those spending no time or <1 hour online.

Conclusions: A substantial proportion of Canadian females 12-29 years of age spent large amounts of time (>20 hours) on the Internet each week, and body dissatisfaction was significantly more likely among this group. Those who spent 11-20 hours online were also more likely to be less satisfied with their bodies. Efforts are needed to support girls and young women to achieve and maintain a positive body image in today’s digital age.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
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