Does the media cause eating disorders?
See how super-thin models impact women’s views of their bodies.
Eating disorders have a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness. As many as 20 percent of those who suffer from anorexia will die prematurely
from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems. While there are many possible causes and triggers for these
disorders, the media’s influence on body image cannot be
In 1950, when televisions were first finding their way into homes, the media’s portrayal of “the ideal” female figure was drastically different than it is
today. At that time, mannequins and models more or less reflected the average woman’s size. Mannequins and models have grown thinner by the year,
increasingly disparate with the average woman’s physical form. Not only do most runway models currently meet the body mass index (BMI) for anorexia, but
even the median plus-size model has shrunk several dress sizes over the past decade.
About 90 percent of women overestimate their body size. Research shows a correlation between the media’s unattainable standards of beauty and this rampant
epidemic of body dysmorphia. One study showed that 69 percent of girls stated that magazine models influenced their idea of the perfect body shape. On
television, half of the ads aimed at women speak about physical attractiveness. Study after study show that these ads are contributing toward a negative
body image. Of women answering a People Magazine survey, 80 percent said that the images of women that they see on television and in movies make them feel
insecure. This insecurity can easily lead to a distorted view of one’s body.
While eating disorders can be rooted in biology they can also be socially transmitted by peers and commercial advertisements. Various social media sites
like Pinterest and Instagram have banned so-called “thinspiration” (pro-anorexia) content, but many mainstream fashion advertisements convey the same
dangerous message: to be beautiful you have to be unhealthily thin. If the media doesn’t revise its ideal standard of beauty, more and more women could end
up as victims of media-triggered eating disorders.
created this infographic about eating disorders and the media.
(View larger image.)
Jonathon Rader, PH.D. is CEO of Rader Programs.