Frequent Facebook use could be making us less happy with our bodies, according to a new study drawn from the views of thousands of Kiwis.

The findings, the first of their kind in New Zealand, shed new light on how Facebooking Kiwis really feel about themselves.

Just published in international journal Sex Roles, the study canvassed more than 11,000 people participating in the ongoing New Zealand Values and Attitudes Study (NZVAS) and who were asked how satisfied they were with the appearance, size and shape of their body.

Auckland University PhD candidate Sam Stronge then compared the feedback against whether the respondents had Facebook accounts - those who checked their profiles less than once a week were also regarded non-users.


The results revealed regular users had a lower body satisfaction than people who don't use it - something which had been suggested in research published overseas but not yet here.

But what specifically set the study apart were findings that women in their mid-30s to mid-40s experienced the highest levels of body dissatisfaction of any group.

Earlier research had mainly focused on younger females either in school or at university, Ms Stronge said, and hadn't explored that particular age group.

"The working theory, which we've gained from previous research, is that once women reach menopause they tend to feel better about their own bodies - since nobody is putting pressure on them, they tend to stop putting pressure on themselves," she said.

Young women, meanwhile, tended to be closer to a "beautiful, thin" standard presented in the media, which left women between those two age ranges feeling more pressure on themselves.

"So the middle-aged women are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place - they are not fitting into the standard, but they are still young enough to be judged."

Interestingly, the findings didn't apply just to women - male Facebook users also reported higher levels of dissatisfaction than those who didn't hold or regularly check accounts.

Ms Stronge believed the findings warranted further investigation into what was driving these beliefs.


"It could be that people going on Facebook are people who already feel bad about their bodies, and they are looking at other peoples' photos or posting photos of themselves more because they feel bad."

Auckland University psychologist Dr Chris Sibley, who jointly leads the NZVAS, said the pace of technology - and our growing interaction with it - meant this kind of research was crucial.

"We're at a different place now to where we were even 10 years ago, so being able to follow how people react to these dramatic changes happening in our society is more important than ever."

Netsafe digital project manager Chris Hails was aware of concerning recent research drawing parallels between social media usage by young people and their levels of self-worth, and believed the solution lay in using it with moderation.

Facebook and Us

• Around 2.5 million New Zealanders access Facebook each month, according to figures released this year.

• 1.9 million Kiwis access Facebook every day and 1.5 million of those do so from a mobile device.


• The average number of visits per day is 14.

• It is most popular with students aged under 25, with 85 per cent of people in that demographic using Facebook each day - 81 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds and 82 per cent of mums also use it every day.