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July 2022

Exploring body image and wellbeing among female Instagram users

An analysis of the relationships between body image and wellbeing indicators, and initial exploration of the impact of body image Instagram messages on life satisfaction.

Exploring body image and wellbeing among female Instagram users
In partnership with

With over 70% of users aged 34 or under, Instagram has become an integral part of many young people’s lives.

Research has shown that Instagram users value preferable rather than realistic displays of physical attractiveness. They also exaggerate their own physical attractiveness and happiness online through careful image selection and image editing techniques.

We know that what women consider attractive is intrinsically linked to what they see online, and that the promotion of unrealistic or competing body ideals can be associated with an increase in negative body image outcomes.

While important in its own right, body image becomes of increasing importance due to its associations with wider physical and mental health.

We know that more research is needed to increase our understanding of the relationships between body image and wellbeing in order to better inform future intervention attempts.

What did we do?

We reviewed previous research on the impact of social media on body image and wellbeing.

We explored body image as an indicator of wellbeing by looking at the relationships between levels of life satisfaction and levels of various body image measures.

We also tested whether body positive Instagram messages can lead to improvements in body image and life satisfaction.

Associations between body image and life satisfaction suggest that women who are happier with their bodies are also more happy with their lives as a whole.

Who led the research?

Bryony Davies is a PhD researcher at the University of Portsmouth investigating the role social media plays in how women feel about the appearance of their bodies. She completed an internship at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing exploring body image as an indicator of broader wellbeing and assessing the efficacy of themed health messages for protecting female body image during Instagram use.

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In this project

Briefing 2022
Body image and women's wellbeing
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Blog by Bryony Davies
The impact of Instagram on body image and wellbeing
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