Exploring social media appearance preoccupation in relation to self-esteem, well-being, and mental health
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Department of Cognitive Science, University of Messina, Messina, Italy
Department of Economics, University of Messina, Messina, Italy
These authors had equal contribution to this work
Submission date: 2023-11-26
Final revision date: 2024-05-24
Acceptance date: 2024-06-05
Online publication date: 2024-07-10
Corresponding author
Rosa Angela Fabio   

Department of Cognitive Science, University of Messina, Messina, Italy
Social media platforms have become integral to modern society, facilitating diverse content interactions for individuals. The widespread use of social media has sparked intriguing inquiries into its impact on self-perception and individual well-being. This study investigated the phenomenon of social media appearance preoccupation and its complex relationship with psychosocial factors such as self-esteem, well-being, appearance-related anxiety, depression, and anxiety, considering both the rich-get-richer hypothesis and the poor-get-richer hypothesis.

Participants and procedure:
A sample of 401 Italian participants, aged 18 to 54, completed the demographic questionnaire, the Social Media Appearance Preoccupation Scale (SMAPS), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (SES), the Psychological General Well-Being Index (PGWBI), the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II), and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Y2 (STAI-Y2).

The results suggest a complex relationship between psychosocial factors and social media appearance preoccupation (SMAP). While higher levels of self-esteem and well-being were associated with lower levels of SMAP, indicating a protective effect against appearance preoccupation on social media, there was a positive correlation between appearance-related anxiety, leisure hours of media use, and SMAP.

These findings underscore the multifaceted nature of SMAP and its associations with various psychosocial factors. Overall, these results provide partial support for the theory of the poor-get-richer hypothesis, suggesting that individuals experiencing heightened levels of appearance-related anxiety may turn to social media as a coping mechanism, potentially exacerbating their psychological distress.

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