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Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2012 Apr;15(4):200-4. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0453. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Searching for thinspiration: the nature of internet searches for pro-eating disorder websites.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario. stephen.lewis@uoguelph.ca


Pro-eating disorder (Pro-ED) Websites are widespread and easily accessible. The risks associated with these Websites (e.g., reinforcing and encouraging eating disordered behaviors) have received interest from researchers, media, and mental health professionals. However, little is known about how these Websites are found, which may provide insight into prevention and intervention initiatives. Using Google AdWords Keywords in February 2011, a series of search terms (based on previous research) were entered to generate search-related data regarding actual pro-ED terms used in Google, including the corresponding search results, which were coded for degree of potential harm. Results indicated that Pro-ED search terms are sought out more than 13 million times annually, with pro ana receiving the most searches monthly. Overall, different terms are associated with varying numbers of monthly searches and regional interest. Search terms with references to thinspiration and thinspo are associated with the most harmful Website content. To provide those who seek pro-ED content with helpful, research-supported resources, it may be important to intervene before the point of access by targeting the search results corresponding with pro-ED search terms. Efforts may need to pay particular attention to terms such as thinspiration and thinspo.

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