New report: Digital technology and eating disorders

27 November 2018

We published a new qualitative research report about digital technology and eating disorders.

The full research report is available only in Czech here.

Authors of the report are our team members Eliška NehybkováMartina Šmahelová, Michal Čevelíček, David ŠmahelHana Drtilová, and Hana Macháčková.

The research report summarizes the findings from THINLINE project which examined technology use of people with eating disorders (ED). Authors looked at the perspectives of 30 women suffering from ED as well as the views of 30 experts (psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, nutritional consultants and social workers) dealing with patients suffering from ED through conducting interviews in the years 2015 to 2017 in Czech Republic. On the side of people suffering from ED, there is a variety of activities they engage in on the Internet. More than half of the respondents have visited lay websites with tips on how to maintain an ED, however, lay websites with tips and support for recovery from ED were also popular. Most of the respondents also mentioned professional websites aimed to help in the recovery process, where they often found the motivation for change.

The report also describes how ED sufferers use websites and applications not aimed specifically for people with these issues (social sites, websites about healthy lifestyle, applications for counting calories). The report presents where online environment can be helpful in the recovery process (e.g., social support, access to professional help) while also addressing the dangers it poses for people with ED (e.g., normalization of extreme views on body image, inclusion into a group).

Another important factor on the side of people with ED is how they assess the credibility of information online, where the personal experience of the author of the information and similarity of life situations between the author and the receiver of the information proved to be the most important.

On the side of the professionals, the risks and advantages of technologies for people with ED are discussed. Uncritical acceptance of poor-quality information and the presentation of extreme weight-loss “successes” are viewed as the biggest risks. According to the professionals, online environment can have positive impact only on ED-sufferers that are already motivated to change. Most of the professionals, however, consider technologies to be important in their cooperation with ED patients.

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