The impact of the media on eating disorders - COMMENTARY...

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Paediatr Child Health Vol 8 No 5 May/June 2003 287 E pidemiological studies have suggested that the incidence of eating disorders among adolescent girls has increased over the last 50 years. The reported prevalence rate for anorexia nervosa is 0.48% among girls 15 to 19 years old. Approximately 1% to 5% of adolescent girls meet the criteria for bulimia ner- vosa (1). Today, more than ever, adolescents are prone to con- cerns about their weight, shape, size and body image, and as a result, diet to lose weight (2-5). Little is known about how these body image- and weight-related concerns arise. These behaviours have been suggested as possible risk factors for the development of eating disorders. Many researchers have hypothesized that the media may play a central role in creating and intensifying the phenomenon of body dissatisfaction and consequently, may be partly responsible for the increase in the prevalence of eating disorders. This paper reviews some of the evidence regarding the influence of the media on the development of an adolescent’s self-perception, body image, weight concerns and weight con- trol practices. In addition, we examine how media content might be attended to and positively incorporated into the lives of children and adolescents. TYPES OF MEDIA EXPOSURE Today’s children and adolescents grow up in a world flooded with the mass media (television, films, videos, billboards, mag- azines, movies, music, newspapers, fashion designers and the Internet) (6,7). Staggering statistics reveal that, on average, a child or adolescent watches up to 5 h of television per day (7) and spends an average of 6 to 7 h viewing the various media combined (6). Over the past 20 years, several articles have proposed a link between the thin female beauty ideal and the muscular male body ideal portrayed in the media with a range of psychological symptomatology including body dissatisfaction and eating dis- orders. Studies have reported a significant change in the weight and size of female and male models portrayed through- out the media in western society and the concept of the ‘per- fect or ideal body’ (8-10). Over time the cultural ideal for women’s body size and shape has become considerably thinner and leaner and men’s body size and shape has become stronger and more muscular. This is best illustrated in a study by Katzmarzyk and Davis (8) who examined changes in the body weight and shape of Playboy centerfolds over two decades (1978-1998). They found that there was a significant decrease in the models’ body weights and measurements, with 70% of the women being underweight and greater than 75% of the women were less than 85% of their ideal body weight. A simi- lar study looking at male centerfold models in Playgirl maga- zine from 1973 to 1997 found that male models had become significantly more muscular over time (9). Guillen and Barr (10) focused on the messages in a popular magazine for adoles- cent girls and found that between 1970 to 1990 the emphasis
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This note was uploaded on 07/21/2011 for the course BUS 10001 taught by Professor All during the Spring '11 term at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology.

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The impact of the media on eating disorders - COMMENTARY...

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