SINGAPORE, Aug 17 — About one in six adults in Singapore are at risk of suffering anxiety over body image, while those spending more than three hours a day on TikTok and Instagram were at the highest risk, a study has found.

The study of 2,670 people aged 16 and over, conducted by consumer research and analytics company, Milieu Insight, also found that adult Singaporeans spend an average of two and a half hours on social media each day.

Video platform YouTube topped the list of social media platforms used by the respondents, followed by Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, according to the study findings that was released today.

TODAY takes a closer look at the findings:

How the study measured risk of body image anxiety:

  • Adults aged 16 and up were given a series of online survey questions in May and June this year, touching on topics such as social media usage and behaviour
  • Respondents were asked about social media platforms they used and how much they used them each day
  • They were also tasked to do a number of psychometric tests, including one called the appearance anxiety inventory (AAI) assessment
  • AAI helps measure cognitive and behavioural aspects of body image anxiety, and asks questions such as how frequently a person compares his or her appearance to others, and how often they avoid people due to their own appearance
  • The results of the study are broadly grouped into either the ‘healthy’ group or those at risk of having body image anxiety as determined by the AAI assessment scale

Young women more at risk:

  • About one in six, or 17 per cent, of the Singapore adult population aged 16 and up are potentially at risk of having body image anxiety
  • About 60 per cent of this at-risk group are women, while 40 per cent are men
  • Those at risk of body image anxiety were mainly youths — 39 per cent of them are aged 16 to 24, 29 per cent are aged 25 to 34

TikTok and Instagram daily users more at risk:

  • While 70 per cent of overall respondents said they use Facebook at least once a week, 61 per cent of at-risk group use the platform that frequently
  • 74 per cent of users in the at-risk group reported use Instagram at least once a week, compared to 63 per cent among the healthy group
  • Similarly, 45 per cent of the at-risk group use TikTok at that frequency, as opposed to 27 per cent in the healthy respondents group
  • The at-risk group also have a higher tendency to name Instagram and TikTok as the social media platforms they use daily and for the longest period

Time spent on social media and risk of body image anxiety

  • In all, 56 per cent of the at-risk group spent on average three hours or more across all social media platforms in a day, compared to 40 per cent among the healthy group
  • Specifically, 36 per cent of the TikTok users in the at-risk group spent three hours or more on the platform, compared to 17 per cent in the healthy group
  • About one in five, or 19 per cent, of Instagram users in the at-risk group spent three hours or more on that platform, compared to about one in eight, or 13 per cent, among the healthy group

Attitudes and influences:

  • About one-third, or 34 per cent, of the at-risk group fell within the “suffering” range of the Cantril Ladder, a scale used to measure people’s attitudes towards life satisfaction that groups them into three broad categories — “suffering”, “struggling” and “thriving”
  • This compares to 19 per cent of the overall respondents who self-reported to be in the “suffering” range
  • About half of the at-risk group said social media influencers would typically influence their beliefs and purchase decisions
  • Just under four in 10, or 39 per cent, of the at-risk group attributed such influence to Korean celebrities
  • For the healthy group, 35 per cent attributed this influence to social media influencers and 22 per cent did so for Korean celebrities

Why it matters:

  • Those at risk of body image anxiety were statistically less likely to use Facebook daily, the report noted
  • However, the study noted that this may be due to the higher average age of Facebook users, compared to Instagram and TikTok
  • “This study showed us that those who excessively engage in highly visual social platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok are statistically likely to suffer from body image anxiety,” said Lena Teo, director of Care Singapore
  • “The results of this study highlight just how important it is for everyone (parents, teachers, friends and even government) to play their part in helping to prevent over-usage of social media,” said Stephen Tracy, chief operating officer at Milieu Insight — TODAY