Though men were more likely across the board to engage in any single unhealthy weight control behaviors, women were more likely to have practiced all of them.
People who use dating apps like Tinder are 2.7 to 16.2 times more likely to have an eating disorder or engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors (UWCBs) such as fasting, vomiting, or abusing laxatives, according to a recent Harvard study.
Researchers surveyed over 1,700 U.S. adults ages 18 to 65 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and discovered a strong correlation between the behavior of swiping for dates and going to extremes to look good.
The study examined eating disorders and related behavior over all dating apps, but specifically mentioned Tinder, Grindr, and Coffee Meets Bagel. The survey found that about 33% of men and 17% of women who responded use dating apps, and of those, unhealthy and disordered weight management practices were significantly elevated.
About 45% of female dating app users and 54% of male dating app users reported fasting for weight control. Respectively, those numbers were 22.4% and 36.4% for vomiting, 24% and 41.1% for laxative use, 26.8% and 40.2% for diet pill use, 15.8% and 36.4% for anabolic steroid use, and 20.2% and 49.8% for muscle-building supplement use.
Though men were more likely across the board to engage in any single UWCB, women were more likely to have practiced all of them.
“Women who use dating apps had 2.3 to 26.9 times the odds of engaging in all six UWCBs compared to women who were non-users,” the authors wrote. “The same trend of elevated odds was found among men. Men who use dating apps had 3.2 to 14.6 times the odds of engaging in all six UWCBs compared to men who were non-users.”
People of color were also found to be more likely to practice and all of the examined UWCBs.
Study author Dr. Alvin Tran of the Yale School of Medicine told CNBC that the nature of dating apps could be creating an environment in which appearance is heavily emphasized, as well as “avenues for racism and avenues for body shaming.” Dr. Tran and his fellow researchers point to an analytical paper in Sexuality & Culture titled “Dude, Where’s Your Face?”
“Results indicated that men tended to privilege masculinity, to visually present themselves semi-clothed, and to mention fitness or bodies in the text of their profile,” the paper’s abstract reads.
Dr. Tran’s study notes that it’s unclear whether using dating apps leads to UWCBs or whether those who already engage in these behaviors are more likely to use dating apps. They also acknowledge that their survey sample was entirely U.S.-based and over-represented women, and recommend that “future studies aim to assess the association between dating app use and UWCBs temporally and use a more representative sample.”