Dating App Users May Be More Likely To Control Their Weight In Unhealthy Ways

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A study published in the open-access Journal of Eating Disorders suggests that the use of dating apps may be associated with an increased risk of unhealthy weight control behaviors, including vomiting, or use of laxative and diet pill. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, USA examined data on 1,726 US adults (183 women and 209 men) enrolled in the Harvard Chan Physical Activity study who completed an online survey assessing their dating app use within the past 30 days and their engagement in six unhealthy weight control behaviors (UWBCs) within the past 12 months. 

The lead author of the study Dr Alvin Tran said “To our knowledge, our study is one of the first to explore dating app used in association with unhealthy weight control behaviors. When comparing those who do not use dating apps to those who do, we found that dating app users had significantly elevated odds of engaging in the six unhealthy weight control behaviors we investigated: vomiting for weight control, using laxatives for weight control, fasting for weight control, using diet pills, using muscle-building supplements, and using anabolic steroids.”

Compared to the non-users, women who used dating apps had 2.3 to 26.9 times higher odds of engaging in UCWBs, while the men who used dating apps had 3.2 to 14.6 times the odds of engaging in UWCBs. Among the dating apps users, 22.4% (41) of women and 36.4% (76) of men reported vomiting, 44.8% (82) of women and 54.1% (113) of men reported fasting, and 24% (44) of women and 41.1% (86) of men reported using laxatives for weight control. Apart from these, apps users are also used anabolic steroids, diet pill, or muscle building supplements. Also, researchers found an elevated rate of UWCBs in African Americans.

Dr. Tran said: “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 images- and appearance-focused services could exacerbate those behaviors. With the tremendous growth in dating app usage in the U.S. and an increasing number of studies linking their use to body image concerns and UWCBs, there is a need to further understand how dating apps influence health behaviors and outcomes.”

Journal: Tran et al. Dating app use and unhealthy weight control behaviors among a sample of U.S. adults: a cross-sectional study. 2019. Journal of Eating Disorders. DOI: 10.1186/s40337-019-0244-4

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