Problematic usage of the internet and eating disorder and related psychopathology: a multifaceted, systematic review and meta-analysis
Chamberlain, Samuel R
Eating disorders are widespread illnesses with significant impact. There is growing concern about how those at risk of eating disorders overuse online resources to their detriment. We conducted a pre-registered systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining Problematic Usage of the Internet (PUI) and eating disorder and related psychopathology. The meta-analysis comprised n = 32,295 participants, in which PUI was correlated with significant eating disorder general psychopathology Pearson r = 0.22 (s.e. = 0.04, p < 0.001), body dissatisfaction r = 0.16 (s.e. = 0.02, p < 0.001), drive-for-thinness r = 0.16 (s.e. = 0.04, p < 0.001) and dietary restraint r = 0.18 (s.e. = 0.03). Effects were not moderated by gender, PUI facet or study quality. Results are in support of PUI impacting on eating disorder symptoms; males may be equally vulnerable to these potential effects. Prospective and experimental studies in the field suggest that small but significant effects exist and may have accumulative influence over time and across all age groups. Those findings are important to expand our understanding of PUI as a multifaceted concept and its impact on multiple levels of ascertainment of eating disorder and related psychopathology.