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Study finds fitness influencers on Instagram may negatively impact their fans’ mood

Study finds fitness influencers on Instagram may negatively impact their fans’ mood

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
03.06.2024 16:45

Psychologists from New Zealand studied the impact of Instagram fitness accounts on lifestyle and mental health. They obtained seemingly contradictory results.

Fitness influencers are among the most popular content creators on social media. They share their methods for achieving the "perfect body shape" and living "healthy lifestyles," promoting physical activity and dieting. They also often sell their knowledge and fitness-related products, such as exercise plans, meal kits, or supplements.

Is following fitness influencers good for your health?

The popularity of fitness accounts on Instagram has prompted researchers to investigate the potential impact on young adults' habits and mental health. Does following these accounts inspire people to adopt healthier lifestyles and positively influence mental well-being? Or does it potentially lead to a negative impact on mental health due to comparisons with unattainable body ideals?

A team of psychologists and social psychologists from New Zealand surveyed over 1,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 from New Zealand, the US, and the UK. The researchers examined the participants' Instagram usage and whether they followed fitness content creators on the platform. This information was then compared with the respondents' physical activity levels, dietary habits, anxiety levels, and overall well-being. This study's results, published in cyberpsychology.eu, are pretty intriguing.

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One interesting discovery was that individuals who follow fitness accounts on Instagram tend to engage in more physical activity. They spend an average of 150 minutes per week on intense exercise, which is 60% more than both regular Instagram users and non-followers of fitness profiles, who averaged 90 minutes per week. It's worth noting that the difference between followers of fitness accounts and individuals with no Instagram account at all was only 20%, with the latter group averaging 120 minutes per week. Step count per day did not show significant differences between the groups.

Another notable difference was observed in the dietary habits of fitness content followers. They consumed 20% more portions of fruits and vegetables weekly than non-followers of fitness accounts. However, there were no significant differences in the consumption of ultra-processed foods among the groups.

Does following fitness influencers make you feel worse?

The results of the psychological indicators were quite intriguing. According to the study, people who follow fitness influencers on Instagram showed higher perceived anxiety levels but reported better overall well-being. Interestingly, anxiety levels were found to increase with the amount of intense exercise one engages in. The researchers suggested that this might be due to the susceptibility of these individuals to influence and their increased vulnerability. The study's anxiety scores included indicators for depression, anxiety, and negative mood.

On the other hand, the same group scored higher in terms of general well-being, which could be attributed to factors such as vitality levels, encompassing feelings of being "energetic" and "enthusiastic," among other things. It's worth noting that the differences in psychological factors between the groups that follow fitness accounts on Instagram and those that don't were not particularly significant.

Source: cyberpsychology.eu

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