Study Finds Social Media Photo Filters Increase Muscle Dysmorphia in Young Adults

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Keep it real when you post your pictures online! All that glam from photo filters may do more harm to your than good. A new study has revealed that the use of social media photo filters has a strong association with increased symptoms of muscle dysmorphia, a mental health condition characterized by excessive obsession with muscularity and leanness.

Earlier studies have shown that photo filter use is linked to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors, particularly in females. In the latest study conducted among young adults in Canada, researchers examined how photo filter use is associated with muscle dysmorphia.

Muscle dysmorphia, a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, is marked by distorted self-perceptions of body image. Individuals with this condition obsess over perceived flaws, often resulting in extreme behaviors such as intense exercise, strict dieting, and the use of supplements or steroids.

The researchers examined data from 912 participants in the Canadian Study of Adolescent Health Behaviors. They discovered a correlation between the use of photo filters commonly seen on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and others, and elevated levels of dissatisfaction with muscularity and body image, especially among males. The results were published in the journal Body Image.

“It was clear in our study that frequent use of photo filters is associated with higher levels of muscle dissatisfaction and overall muscle dysmorphia symptoms. Notably, gender plays a significant role, with boys and men who use photo filters exhibiting greater drive to increase their muscularity and social and occupational functioning challenges compared to girls and women in the study,” Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, MSW, the lead author on the study, said in a news release.

The study's findings underscore the importance of increasing awareness about the impact of digital image manipulation on body image and mental well-being. “Given the evolving nature of , these findings have important implications for future ,” the researchers concluded.

“Our study sheds light on the often-overlooked impact of photo filter use on muscle dysmorphia, especially among boys and men. As digital image manipulation becomes more advanced and widespread, it is essential to understand and mitigate its potential harm on body image and mental health,” Ganson added.

The study has not examined the underlying mechanism between the link. However, the researchers attribute it to factors such as increased peer pressure, self-objectification, body comparisons, body dissatisfaction, and body change behaviors.

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