Body Image - Media Impact On Body Image

Media Impact On Body Image

See also: Anorexia nervosa

Some girls and young women compare themselves to models in ads, in terms of their physical attractiveness. Many commentators regard the emphasis in the media and in the fashion industry on thinness and on an ideal female body shape and size as being psychologically detrimental to the well-being of many young women, and on their self-image which also gives rise to excessive dieting and/or exercise, and to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. Sociocultural studies highlight the role of cultural factors in the incidence of anorexia nervosa in women, such as the promotion of thinness as the ideal female form in Western industrialized nations, particularly through the media. A recent epidemiological study of 989,871 Swedish residents indicated that gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status were highly correlated with the chance of developing anorexia nervosa, and women with non-European parents were among the least likely to be diagnosed, while women in wealthy, ethnic Swedish families were most at risk.

A study by Garner and Garfinkel demonstrated that those in professions where there is a particular social pressure to be thin (such as models and dancers) were much more likely to develop anorexia during their career, and further research suggests that those with anorexia have much higher contact with cultural sources that promote weight-loss.

Although anorexia nervosa is usually associated with Western cultures, exposure to Western media is thought to have led to an increase in cases in non-Western countries. But other cultures may not display the same worries about becoming fat as those in the West, and instead may emphasise other common features.

However, other researchers have contested the claims of the media effects paradigm. An article by Christopher Ferguson, Benjamin Winegard, and Bo Winegard, for example, argues that peer effects are much more likely to cause body dissatisfaction than media effects, and that media effects have been overemphasized. It also argues that one must be careful about making the leap from arguing that certain environmental conditions might cause body dissatisfaction to the claim that those conditions can cause diagnosable eating disorders, especially severe eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa.

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