Eating Disorders and the Media

Many studies have found a correlation between eating disorders and the media and the way ideal body images have been portrayed. There a a variety of psychological factors that play into eating disorders, but the media has been found to contribute to the eating disorders.

A study regarding adolescent girls and health care issues published in The Commonwealth Fund found that media images help to create cultural definitions of beauty and attractiveness hence the idea of the social perception of beauty. Many teens including both females and males suffer from eating disorders. While media messages portraying the idea that being thin is the only way to be beautiful may not directly cause eating disorders, they have been found to play a role in creating the context in which people place a value on size and shape of their body figure. These studies on eating disorders and the media have found the media's power over the development of a person's self-esteem and body image can be incredibly strong and influencing. 

Eating Disorders and the Media - Effects:

  • A recent survey of adolescent girls found that their primary source of information about women's health issues comes from the media.
  • About 60 percent of white middle school girls read at least one fashion magazine on a regular basis.
  • Women's health and fashion magazines have 10.5 times more advertising and articles promoting weight loss in comparison to men's magazines of the same variety.
  • The average teen males and females consume about three to four hours of television per day
  • A study following 4,294 television commercials found that one out of every 3.8 commercials send some kind of message regarding attractiveness with the message dictating what is and is not attractive. These same researchers found that the average teen views about 5,260 messages regarding attractiveness per year.

How the media encourages an unrealistic ideal body image, which may encourage eating disorders

  • Celebrities in the media are often more thin or slender than the average size of a man or a woman. Many celebrities understand believe being beautiful and thin is part of their job description, which is why many workout more than the average working-class man or woman has time to do. It is difficult to compete with a person who is able to work out for several hours per day because it is part of their "job." However, many teens do not understand this concept and instead wish to look like their favorite celebrity, according to research on body image and the media.
  • Runway models are also encouraged to maintain an unhealthy weight, which gives a false image to the average teenage girl. 
  • Magazine and billboard ads are notorious for using digital picture editing like Photo Shop to alter advertisements featuring attractive men and women. The images seen in magazines are not real and an inaccurate portrayal of what the model actually looks like. 

To solve the problem with the media's strong influence on teens and young adults, awareness about healthy body image needs to brought to the forefront. Encouragement in the media to show plus size or average size models is also a good effort being seen in the media to help correct this issue. 


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