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HBCU to Study Health Effects of Social Media on Black Gen Z Women

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North Carolina Agricultural and Techincal State University recently announced that they’ll be studying the health effects of social media on Generation Z Black women. 

The HBCU’s study, led by Assistant Professor Kalynda C. Smith, Ph.D., will be funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease; known as “How Health and Weight Management Social Media Messages Targeting African American Women Impact Health Behaviors,” a four-year grant totaling $545,686 in funds will support Smith’s research. 

The study will mainly focus on the mental health effects of social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and more. The mental health effects and how they connect to physical health, such as diet and fitness habits, will also be observed. 

Previous studies have found that there’s a complex link between social media use and mental health issues amongst Black women in the U.S. It’s been proven that Black women are experiencing anxiety disorders and major depressive issues at higher rates than any other group in the country. 

Yet, there have also been positive effects initiated by social media movements such as the #BlackGirlMagic online movement on sites like Instagram. In a 2021 study conducted by researchers from the Yale School of Medicine, University of Oregon and the SUNY Downstate Medical School, 134 young Black women from the age of 18 were surveyed about social media and its effects on their view of their physical appearance. 

In the results, the researchers found that most of the women suffered from self-esteem issues with 59.6% of the respondents reporting that there were instances where they wished that they didn’t have their facial features. 82.1% said that they’ve been victims of dicscrimination because of their physical appearance. 

Following the spread of the #BlackGirlMagic movement, a trend that celebrates the beauty of Black women and girls, however, 82.1% of the respondents said that the hashtag had some effect on their self-esteem. In particular, 64.9% of the women surveyed also said that they felt that their self-esteem levels grew because of the social media movement.

“These women have been exposed to social media messages the majority of their lives, compared with older groups, but there is little research that examines how these messages influence their self-presentation, self-esteem and health habits,” said Smith in an official statement. “This study will address how social media can be used as a preventative measure to address chronic conditions, like diabetes, that disproportionately affect the Black/African American community in the United States.”

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