The frightening trend encouraging teen eating disorders

The posts send a disturbing message.
The posts send a disturbing message.  Photo: Shutterstock

Teenagers are sharing disturbing images of their worryingly thin bodies on social media, labelling them #bonespiration and speaking of their desire to lose even more weight. 

Researchers who studied the posts said teenagers and young women are using the tag as an easy way to share and compare images of extremely skinny people.

A team, from UK's Exeter University Medical School, scoured social media sites, including Twitter and Instagram, for images using #bonespiration, #fitspiration and #thinspiration.

The previously popular #thinspiration was banned in 2012 for promoting eating disorders, but can still be used and accessed despite a pop-up message alerting you to its dangers.

To get a clearer picture of the trend, researchers analysed more than 730 images uploaded by teenage girls and what they found was distressing.

The results, which were published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, found that 26 per cent of #bonespiration images showed protruding hipbones, 23 per cent ribs, 22 per cent collarbones and 5.8 per cent showed spines.

"The results from this study indicate that there are consistent differences between fitspiration content, when compared to thinspiration and bonespiration," the report revealed.

"Thinspiration and bonespiration content featured more than thin objectified bodies; however, fitspiration content was similar to thinspiration content across codes for bone protrusions and, therefore, showed similarities with regards to the idealisation of the extremely thin body.

"The everyday user could, therefore be at risk of viewing this potentially harmful content that idealises the extremely thin body."

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The report stated that simply restricting or banning hashtags on social media would not be very effective as users can easily swap to new hashtags.

Instead, it would be better to "develop interventions to minimise the impact of exposure to this content" by developing, for example, programs aimed at building resilience in teens to deal with this sort of content.

"Clinicians and parents need to be made aware of how easily bonespiration and thinspiration can be accessed on social media, and how actively engaging with this content could have negative consequences for an individual's body image," the report said.

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