City Research Online

‘Healthy Eating’ and Social Media Use

Lanitis, A. (2020). ‘Healthy Eating’ and Social Media Use. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) describes a pathological, unhealthy fixation with eating healthy food. Research concerning the symptomatology of ON, and its prevalence in numerous samples, differs as there no official measures or clear diagnostic criteria exist for this fairly new affliction. Though research on the link between the epidemiology of ON and social media is gaining traction, published evidence is scarce. This study intends to further understand ON and its possible link to the use of social media, and specifically, to test the prevalence of ON in an opportunity sample with the use of two ON measures – the ORTO-15 and the Tereul Orthorexia Scale (TOS); to use and validate a new ON measure (TOS); to examine the relationship between ON and social media use, with a focus on Instagram users; and to further understand the participants’ interpretations of the possible link between eating patterns and social media use. This study uses a convergent design and a mixed methods approach, which employs both statistical and thematic analysis (TA) to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative data generated. Data from 201 participants suggested a high prevalence of ON across the sample, and the results also reinforced the validity of the TOS measure (α = .86). ORTO 15 scores showed significant differences between age groups, genders, and Instagram users and non-Instagram users. The TA generated three overall themes: ‘The Importance of Belonging’, ‘Health as Art’ and ‘Craving’. The high prevalence in the sample may have been a result of the researcher’s recruitment method, and the ON measures may have categorised individuals on non-medically prescribed diets as ‘orthorexic’. Both the quantitative and qualitative results offer evidence to support a possible link between ON and social media use, specifically Instagram. Further research should be done to establish official criteria and measures for ON and the effect of social media on eating patterns, and to investigate the notion of ‘healthism’.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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