How does the increase of media in our daily lives connect to the rise of eating disorders?
The diagnoses of eating disorders have increased among adolescent girls over the past 50 years. Though there are many different factors that affected this uprise in eating disorders, media plays a crucial role. On average, children/adolescents spend 6-7 hours using technology daily, mostly on media. Media can include online platforms, magazines, books, video games, news sites, and more. It is a known fact that adolescent brains are extremely reliant on the information and activity they view, so the content they see on media affects their ideals and goals. The effect of media on eating disorders is not solely attributed to the media itself, but rather to the unrealistic beauty ideals and standards that are placed on adolescent girls.
A study by Katzmarzyk and Davis viewed the difference in the body weight/shape of the models in playboy magazine. Between 1978 and 1998 there was a visible decrease in the weight of the chosen models, 70% of the models being considered “underweight” and 75% of the models weighed 85% of what would be considered a healthy weight for their size. Additionally, many photos showing the “ideal” body in the media are photoshopped or edited, while being presented as authentic to the viewers. The unrealistic beauty standards that are pushed on the minds of young girls negatively affect their body image and self-confidence.
In a study conducted by Alison E. Field, Lilian Cheung, Anne M. Wolf, David B. Herzog, Steven L. Gortmaker, and Graham A. Colditz, a positive correlation between fashion magazines and body insecurities was found. In a questionnaire given to 548 middle to highschool girls, 69% reported that the magazine photos influenced their idea of the “perfect body”. Additionally, 47% of these girls reported the urge to lose weight after viewing fashion magazines. There is also a positive correlation between the amount of time spent looking at magazines and discontent with one's body. With the increasing use of media in the past 50 years, the body ideals are more prevalent in the lives of adolescent girls, especially with the rise of easily accessible technology. After watching a particular group of about 500 girls for the 8 years (from 12-20 years old), a shocking 5.2% of them met criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. In the 1980’s the average reported eating disorder per 100,000 people was between 15 and 20, which is 0.015 %. The clear increase aligns with the increasing popularity of media. When studying body concerns in young girls, researchers found that the strongest motivator for changing their bodies was in fact, media.
The way that media impacts body image often inspires unhealthy dieting, workouts, and purging among young girls. These activities not only form unhealthy habits and relationships with the body but also increase the risk of an eating disorder. It is important for young girls to understand the unrealistic standards set in the media in order to form healthier relationships with food and their bodies. The information young girls ingest from the media has a strong effect on body image, connecting to the recent uprise in eating disorders.
Image: Currin, L., Schmidt, U., Treasure, J., & Jick, H. (2005). Time trends in eating disorder incidence. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 186(2), 132-135. doi:10.1192/bjp.186.2.132
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