Aim and liver damage, irregular heartbeats and some extreme


 To examine whether Social
media is the principal factor which contributes towards anorexia or is it other
factors such as environment.

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The hypothesis of this research project is that social media has a
great impact on the rise of anorexia within the UK. This is because growing
levels of young people are using social media.



Anorexia is a complex mental disorder where severe emotional
distress is expressed via disordered behavior involving food restriction.
Anorexia causes extremely dangerous health related problems such as infertility,
hair loss, kidney and liver damage, irregular heartbeats and some extreme cases
even leading to death (NHS, 2016).


Over 1.6 million people in the UK are estimated to be directly
affected by eating disorders and a staggering 1 in 250 women will experience
anorexia at some point within their lives, (Beat Eating Disorders, 2016). A
basic 12-week specialist in-patient course of treatment on the NHS costs about
£25,000 (BBC News, 2003). In 2015 The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced
government funding of £150m for young people with eating disorders and a
commitment to bring in waiting-time for treatment, (The Independent, 2015).
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia cost the country more than £15bn
a year in 2016
yet it is still on the rise (The Independent, 2015).


The research project that is
going to be carried out will be focusing on eating disorders, anorexia because
there is a growing percentage of eating disorders in the UK, and it is still
rising each year. Most recent figures January 2014 reveal that there was a
national rise of 8 per cent in the number of admissions to hospital for an
eating disorder in the 12 months previous to October 2013, (Anorexia and
Bulimia Care, 2015). In the recent years eating disorders have been a growing
topic within the media. It is costing the NHS a large sum of money, as
mentioned before the £15bn figure cited earlier includes not only treatment but
to also educate the population, creating awareness to try and reduce the rate
of eating disorders overall, causing a strain on the NHS and a rise in pressure
to combat anorexia.


Social media has effectively
made its way into every classroom, household, and workplace. Whether it is used
by children, teenagers, or adults, everyone seems to have a presence in the
social media world. With a wide range of social media platforms used among all
age groups including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter, it can be
increasingly difficult to escape the pressures and influences of social media.
The latest research from Ofcom suggests that almost half of young people aged
between 8 and 17 have a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook,
(Teaching times, 2016). The power of social networking is such that, the
of worldwide users is expected to reach some
2.95 billion by 2020, (Statista, 2017). This can be linked with the
assumption that the growing rate of eating disorders is also due to the rise in
younger people using social media which includes cyber bullying, the
accessibility to be able to find forums, sites to give tip, tricks and
information to help with eating disorders and anorexia such as ‘pro ana’
websites. The Independent, 2017 suggested that the pro ana websites being
easily accessible is increasing promotion on anorexia and other eating
disorders and actions should be in place to block or monitor the use of these
websites.  Due to the large amount of
social media users it is showing a correlation of the increase within anorexia
due to an idea that you must look and be a certain way and the idea of social media validation.



In this research project, the
secondary sources have been examined and compared to a range of others through
addressing and evaluating in as much detail as possible. The sources have been
determined by how reliable the data is, where the sources and statistics came
from originally and considering how ethical the collection of data was and if
it will be ethical to use within the research project. When choosing the
sources used subjectivity was taking into consideration, as this could affect
the research topic as these results could be biased and affect the overall
results. For example, 2017, where an article proposes the fact that
social media is forcing girls to starve themselves, however within the article
there is no factual basis supporting the supposed proposal therefore the source
must be considered as biased.


However, the metro article,
although containing no factual basis, can be useful as it gives the researcher
an understanding of what opinions some people may hold. To counterbalance out
the use of the metro article there is also a variety of unbiased reliable
sources found via factual articles, books and also published data available.
Furthermore, taking a range of quantitative data and qualitative data will be
used to also take into consideration other factors that could influence the
rise in anorexia. For example, statistics used from the NHS 2017 yearly report;
this information is collected fairly, confidentially and also accurately, and
also a newspaper article about the links between social media and anorexia
published by The Telegraph 2015. This has useful up-to date links and explains
in depth the links of social media and its potential influence, this displays
the positives towards social media and how it could help reduce eating disorders,
However, due to this article being a media article it could be considerer
biased based on the author’s own opinion.


Anorexia can be quite a sensitive topic, in order to
find valid research for this project it must be ethical. It must be taking into
consideration where this information has come from in the first place and how
they meet the ethical guidelines. For example, the NHS statistics have been
collected sensitively by collected data anonymously to be published online also
through volunteering questionnaires also giving consent for their data to be
published. Therefore, not forcing people to give information if they don’t feel
comfortable.  The NHS will make sure no one
was put in harm when collecting data and due to this being a sensitive topic
will make sure help will be in place if it is required after the data is
collected. As the NHS They support important social and moral values, such as the
principle of doing no harm to others so to keep it this way they publish the
data confidentially.

Source analysis

On one hand there is a wide range of sources that
support the hypothesis, this is seen through the article on The Independent, (2017),
where it was declared that researchers conducted content analysis on 734 images posted under
suggestive hashtags such as bonespiration, thinspiration. The accounts feature
selfies taken by girls who want to show off their emaciated bodies by
highlighting their protruding hip bones, spines and collar bones. This is
causing a rise in young girls being self-conscious, by seeing these
unattainable photographs girls feel they must be the same. Therefore, when
going online to find advice on how to be like these people, they access irresponsible
and dangerous websites such as the ‘pro ana’ websites. This is where people are
seen to bully others into starving themselves, or provide information on the
best ways to purge (make themselves sick), starve themselves and also how to
hide your habits from superiors. 


The number of children and
teenagers seeking help for an eating disorder has risen by 110 per cent in the
past three years, according to figures given exclusively to The
Independent, (2014). ChildLine says it received more than 10,500
calls and online inquiries from young people struggling with food and
weight-related anxiety in the last financial year. The charity believes this
dramatic increase could be attributed to several factors, including the
increased pressure caused by social media, the growth of celebrity culture, and
the rise of anorexia websites. Many girls talked
about the concerns they had about their body image and how they disliked the
way they looked. They also mentioned how they compared themselves negatively
with peers and celebrities. In more than 20 per cent of counselling sessions
about eating problems with girls, they talked about their body image or


The nature of social media places
huge pressures on our children and young people which in turn can lead to
significant emotional issues. And society is increasingly bombarded with
celebrities and airbrushed images which give an impossible view of what
‘beautiful’ is.

Another article also from The Independent, (2015), suggests that
due to websites such as ‘pro ana’ are easily accessible, it is allowing a large
number of young girls to discover these and also the peer pressure that goes
along with them. It is also showing girls unattainable images of what perfect
is and what they should look like in order to be this way this in turn causes a
large proportion of young girls to start dieting which can then fuel more
pressure and can lead to anorexia. Metro, (2016) supports this article as it
contains factual basis, it proposes that an eating disorder therapist revealed
up to 60% of people who had been referred to her were negatively affected by
sites like Twitter and Instagram. ‘We can happily assume a lot of these are
being influenced by social media and the input from social media,’ Dr Varma
said Metro, (2016). However, to reduce growing rates of anorexia in younger
girls; Instagram recently took the step of
stopping search words such as “thinspiration” that could direct users
to results related to eating disorders. Instead users are shown this warning:
“Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders
that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be


Although there are sources as discussed above that support the
hypothesis, there are many more that disagree and believe that there are other
factors that more importantly contribute to anorexia. The telegraph, (2017) carried
out a study to compare the genetic code of 3,400 people with anorexia and
compared their genetic code to people without the disorder. The results found
that in more than half of anorexia cases they found faulty genes, which are
linked to neuroticism, schizophrenia and metabolism, thus showing there could
be sign that anorexia is within genetics. Additionally, the Daily Mail (2017),
reported that the University of North Carolina has
identified the first genetic locus (the position on a chromosome) for anorexia
nervosa. The study, which is the most powerful genetic
study of anorexia nervosa conducted to date, included genome-wide analysis of
DNA from 3,495 individuals with anorexia nervosa and 10,982 unaffected
individuals. They discovered that a fault on the chromosome means some people
may be more likely to have anorexia.


Healthy place (N.D), have discussed a range of causes that could
potentially play an important role in eating disorders. They stated that
biological causes is believed to play a major role in within anorexia, this is
down to abnormalities in the chemical messengers which can cause people with
anorexia to have difficulty experiencing pleasure from food. They also
discussed the idea that life transitions could be a potential cause, such as
the ending of a relationship, the death of a loved one or increased stress;
this could be down to school life, home life or work life.

Several studies have identified
sociocultural factors within American society that are associated with the
development of eating disorders. Traditionally, eating disorders have been
associated with Caucasian upper-socioeconomic groups. It has also been
hypothesized that thinness is gaining more value within the African-American
culture, just as it has in the Caucasian culture. Additionally, a recent study
of early adolescent girls found that Hispanic and Asian-American girls showed
greater body dissatisfaction than white girls (Robinson et al., 1996). 


600 children under the age of 13
have been treated in hospital in England for eating disorders in the past three
years, NHS (2015). The real problem is not “size zero”. The real
problem is that we live in a neurotic, miserable society with a deeply
disturbed attitude to food, nurture and consumption, a society which teaches
children, and particularly girls, that their growing bodies and normal desires
are unacceptable and must be starved away. 


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