Digital technology use and muscle-building behaviors in young adults

Jason M. Nagata, Vivienne M Hazzard, Kyle T. Ganson, Samantha L Hahn, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Marla E Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: Digital technology use and muscle-building behaviors reflect a wide range of behaviors with associated health risks. However, links between digital technology use and muscle-building behaviors remain unknown and this study aimed to address this gap. Method: Data were collected from a diverse sample of 1,483 young adults (mean age 22.2 ± 2.0 years) participating in the population-based Eating and Activity over Time 2018 study. Gender-stratified-modified Poisson regression models were used to determine cross-sectional associations between three types of digital technology use (screen time, social media, weight-related self-monitoring apps) and five types of muscle-building behaviors (changing eating, exercise, protein powders/shakes, pre-workout drinks, steroids/growth hormone/creatine/amino acids) in young adulthood, adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and body mass index. Results: Screen time and social media were either not found to be associated with muscle-building behaviors or in a few instances, associated with less use of these behaviors (e.g., screen time and pre-workout drinks in men). In contrast, the use of weight-related self-monitoring apps was positively associated with all muscle-building behaviors, including steroids/growth hormone/creatine/amino acids in men (prevalence ratio [PR] = 1.83; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.13–2.97) and women (PR = 4.43; 95% CI: 1.68–11.68). Discussion: While most recreational screen time may represent sedentary behaviors not related to muscle-building behaviors, weight-related self-monitoring apps are highly associated with more muscle-building behaviors and could be a future target for interventions to discourage the use of steroids and other harmful muscle-building substances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Grant numbers R01HL084064 and R35HL139853, PI: Dianne Neumark‐Sztainer; K08HL159350, PI: Jason Nagata), the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant number T32MH082761, PI: Scott Crow), and the American Heart Association (Grant number CDA34760281, PI: Jason Nagata). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • anabolic-androgenic steroids
  • apps
  • muscle-enhancing behavior
  • performance-enhancing substances
  • protein
  • screen time
  • social media


Dive into the research topics of 'Digital technology use and muscle-building behaviors in young adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this