Petya Eckler

Dr Petya Eckler

Senior lecturer in Journalism, media and communication

University of Strathclyde


My primary area of research is on health communication, most recently focusing on social media. I examine how people use mass media or social media and how that relates to their health. I have also examined health-related product reviews by consumers and how they influence health attitudes and outcomes of the people who read them. I have also studied how newspapers portray various health topics, which can influence public attitudes and policies towards them. I am currently exploring how health topics are represented on Instagram.

In terms of body image, I have studied how Facebook use relates to body image and eating attitudes among American and international young women. In collaboration with Anke Kleim and Andrea Tonner, we have studied the concept of the beach body through the lenses of deception.

I work with various interdisciplinary groups on campus and am a fellow of the Centre for Health Policy in Strathclyde. 

I am also the founder and coordinator of the Working Group on Body Image and Eating Disorders, which includes academics, clinicians, health charity professionals, bloggers and people with lived experiences. We work on research and public engagement around social media, body image and creating a healthier and more inclusive online environment for young people. Watch our video here, which explores how young people use and feel about social media.

Our working group got together for the first time in 2016 for a discussion on the gaps in research related to social media, body image and eating disorders. We came out of this discussion with a detailed research agenda, which outlines where future research efforts should focus on to build better understanding of the issues.

I give frequent interviews to the media, public talks about social media and body image/mental health, and presentations at schools, clinicians’ groups, etc. Watch my TEDx talk on the topic. My professional background is in journalism and public relations, including working as a health writer.

In April 2019, Julie Cameron and I hosted the event #HealthySocialMedia: Building Positive Body Image on Social Media. We gathered young people, their mentors, people from the third sector, education, NHS, and others to explore important questions about how they use social media and how they feel as a result of that. The report from this event is now available here. And you can see all presentations from the event here.


Anke Kleim, Petya Eckler, Andrea Tonner. (2019). “Too good to be true”: Semi-naked bodies on social media. In I. Chiluwa and S. Samoilenko (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Deception, Fake News, and Misinformation Online. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Ni Zhang, Shelly Campo, Jingzhen Yang, Petya Eckler, Linda Snetselaar, Kathleen Janz, Emily Leary. (2017). What motivates young adults to talk about physical activity on social network sites? Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(6), e226.

Petya Eckler and Yusuf Kalyango Jr. (2017). The female body on social media. In K. Burns (Ed.). Social media: A reference handbook. Goleta, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Petya Eckler, Yusuf Kalyango Jr., Ellen Paasch. (2017). Facebook use and negative body image among U.S. college women. Women & Health, 57(2), 249-267.

Petya Eckler,Shelly Rodgers, Kevin Everett. (2016). Characteristics of community newspaper coverage of tobacco control and its relationship to the passage of tobacco ordinances. Journal of Community Health, 41(5), 953-961.

Ni Zhang, Shelly Campo, Jingzhen Yang, Kathleen Janz, Linda Snetselaar, Petya Eckler. (2015). Effects of social support about physical activity on social networking sites: Applying the theory of planned behaviour. Health Communication, 30(12), 1277-1285.




Andrea Tonner, Petya Eckler, Julie Cameron, Anke Kleim. Exploring a role for positive body image in social media use. Abstract presented at the biennial conference of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), November 2018, Lugano, Switzerland.

Petya Eckler, Andrea Tonner, Julie Cameron, Anke Kleim, Stephanie McAlinden, Halina Rifay, Calum Munro, Charlotte Oakley, Sara Preston, Sarah Riley. Digital media and eating disorders: Future directions for impactful research. Poster presented at the biennial conference of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), November 2018, Lugano, Switzerland.

Yusuf Kalyango, Petya Eckler, Stephanie Smith, Karlyga Missayeva. Body image and social media: cross-cultural comparison between Kazakhstan and USA. Poster presented at the biennial conference of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), November 2018, Lugano, Switzerland.

Andrea Tonner, Petya Eckler, Julie Cameron. Using a collaborative approach to develop research questions. Abstract presented at the 9th Workshop on Interpretive Consumer Research, April 2017, Stockholm, Sweden.

Anke Jobsky, Petya Eckler, Andrea Tonner. Mediatizing the naked truth – A re-conceptualisation of the ideal beach body in contemporary media. Abstract presented at the biennial conference of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), November 2016, Prague, Czech Republic. 


Member of Advisory Group on Healthy Body Image for Children and Young People, August 2019 – January 2020, formed by Scottish Government

An invited main floor talk at the Scottish Eating Disorder Conference in association with Eating Disorders Education and Training Scotland and NHS Grampian, Aberdeen, June 2019.

Invited talk to University of Glasgow Physics Department to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2019.

Co-organiser with Julie Cameron of event #HealthySocialMedia: Building Positive Body Image on Social Media, April 2019, University of Strathclyde.

Invited talk to University of Glasgow chapter of Beat ED charity to celebrate Eating Disorders Awareness Week. February 2019.

Invited talk at the online FamTech Summit, November 2018.  

Invited talk at the conference of Scottish Eating Disorders Interest Group, Edinburgh, November 2018.

Presentation at Holyrood event Eating Disorders in Scotland. Edinburgh, March 2018.

Invited talk at Medical Humanities Research Group, University of Glasgow, January 2018.

Invited talk at Connect-ED Shared Learning Day for medical staff at Children’s Services NHS GGC. Glasgow, January 2018.

Public talk during Explorathon ’17. Tinderbox café, Glasgow, September 2017.

Presentation to students during Explorathon ‘17, Glasgow City College, September 2017.

Invited talk at TEDx @RNCM, Manchester, July 2017.

Co-author of expert opinion on body image, mass media and social media to Youth Select Committee 2017 Inquiry into Body Image, June 2017.

Participant in Meet the Expert discussion during Science Lates at Glasgow Science Centre, June 2017.

Participant in Images of Research photo competition and exhibit. University of Strathclyde. March – November 2017.

Producer of voxpop video of young people talking about their social media use. December 2016.

Founder and coordinator, Working Group on Body Image and Eating Disorders. May 2016 – present.


I believe that young people have the right to grow up in an environment which is supportive and encouraging of their individual differences, both in terms of their bodies and their psychology. Growing up is hard enough as it is, without the pressure of looking a certain way, sounding a certain way or behaving a certain way.

As a media scholar, I have special interest in how social media can help young people connect, express themselves and explore the world. Today’s social media has very often become anti-social, threatening and damaging. I hope to give my small contribution to making it a better place for young people and to helping young users feel better in their skin overall.


@DrPetyaEckler on Twitter