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The Media's Effect on Eating Disorders

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Kelly Miller

on 9 April 2013

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Transcript of The Media's Effect on Eating Disorders

The Media vs. Eating Disorders •...such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and EDNOS include extreme emotions, behaviors, and attitudes surrounding weight and food issues.

•They arise from a variety of factors including physical, psychological, interpersonal, and social issues. ...Sounds Like the Media To Me! Media images are among these factors because they help create cultural definitions of beauty.

According to NEDA,"research is increasingly clear that media does indeed contribute and that exposure to and pressure exerted by media increase body dissatisfaction and disordered eating." Body Dissatisfaction and Eating Disorders NEDA's Social Factors that contribute to EDS:
Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” or muscularity and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”
Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes
Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths
Stress related to racial, ethnic, size/weight-related or other forms of discrimination or prejudice

Poor body image is one of the first eating disorders symptoms displayed.

The best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction. (Stice, 2002) Prevalence •According to a Nielsen report, the average American over the age of 2 spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television

•By the time a young person is 17 years old, they have received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media. (National Institute on Media and Family) Television Prevalence Magazines •Researchers estimate that 60% of Caucasian middle school girls read at least one fashion magazine regularly. (Levine, 1997) Prevalence Models •The average US resident is exposed to approximately 5,000 advertising messages a day. (Alfreiter, Elzinga & Gordon, 2003) So What? In a 1992 study of female students at Stanford University, 70% of women reported feeling worse about themselves and their bodies after looking at magazines.

Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women. (Smolak, 1996)

After 3 minutes of flipping through a fashion magazine, 48% of girls wish they were as skinny as models. (Girl Scouts of America, 2012)

According to the Women’s Health Network, ninety percent of women today in America are dissatisfied with their bodies.

Dove discovered that fifty percent say that their bodies “disgust” them. How do they mislead us? Representations Example #1- Photoshop Example #2- Objectification Eating Disorders Why is this important? Twenty million women and ten million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life. (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011)

Since the 1960s, eating disorder incidence rates have doubled. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2006)

A review of 50 years of research indicates that AN has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011)

In 2011, research dollars spent on eating disorders averaged $.93 per affected individual, compared to $88 for Alzheimer's disease, $81 for Schizophrenia, and $44 for Autism. Meanwhile, EDs are 6-8x more prevalent. (National Institutes of Health, 2011)
Through representations, skewed coverage, innuendos, and headlines that create prejudice against those who do not follow the beauty ideal.

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." -Arthur Miller

"Images in particular serve the function of economical expression, as they can be presented simultaneously with verbal information. At the same time, they can efficiently evoke the emotions and memories that are intertwined with particular stereotypes." -Gordon Allport How do they mislead us? Skewed images of reality Example#3- "Face-ism" Index The distance from the top of the head to the lower part of the chin, divided by the top of the head to the lowest visible part of the body. How do they mislead us? Skewed Coverage Members of the news media choose what to communicate in order to sell products and obtain good TV ratings How do they mislead us? Innuendos Headlines In the print media, one of the first things to grab a reader's attention is the headline.

They provide the best-recalled information from the story, long after the details fade from memory. (van Dijk, 1988) "Right now, 96 percent of all positions of clout in U.S. businesses, including media, are held by men."

-Julie Burton, president of Women's Media Centre An indirect remark or hint, typically a suggestive or disparaging one D.T. Gilbert (1991) explains that there are two steps while trying to understand a statement in which the direct statement is negated or whose truth is questioned.

1. "Getting fit will get me a date."
2. "This may or may not be true."

-Anything that intervenes between the two steps can reduce the probability that the reader can correct the initial thought. Why does this affect us? Framing theory

Social comparison theory

Cultivation theory

Social learning theory

Self-discrepancy theory

Objectification theory Social Comparison Theory Media exposure“cultivates” beliefs that match the media-depicted world, yet the effect of the media does not generalize to the real world. (Gerbner, 1969)

If individuals are repeatedly exposed to the television “worldview” of the ideal body, one may misinterpret such portrayals as being representative of the “real world” rather than those of the “media world” (Harrison, 2003). Individuals tend to rate and compare themselves according to others (Festinger, 1954)

Two types of comparisons: upward and downward

Downward: comparing oneself to those who are worse off
Equals heightened self-esteem and decreased anger

Upward: comparing oneself to those who are superior
Equals decreased self-worth and increased anger/ depression
Upward comparison causes disordered eating and the earning to be thin (Botta, 2000) Cultivation Theory Social Learning Theory "Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action."

-Albert Bandura, 1977 Self-discrepancy theory Self- discrepancies: Representations in the self-concept of ways in which one falls short of an important standard (Higgins, 1987, 1989)

Two major representations of the self: actual and ideal
A large gap between the two =

Research indicates that there is a relationship between long-term exposure to thin-ideal media and developing self-discrepancies, which result in eating-related pathologies. (Bessenoff, 2006) Magazine Headlines Magazines reinforce our appearance-driven culture by constructing appearance as an individual's most important trait

The exception: health magazines? Objectification Theory Women who live in an objectifying culture learn to perceive and describe themselves by their external traits (i.e., how they look) rather than internal traits (i.e., how they feel). (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997) Research Purpose: to investigate the framing of headlines on cover pages of men’s and women’s health magazines.


(1) to determine whether men’s and women’s health magazine headlines included more appearance related frames than body competence frames, and

(2) to test whether women’s health magazine headlines included more appearance related frames than men’s health magazines. Methods A criterion for the sample’s magazines was created.

The magazine had to be listed in the “Women’s Interest” or “Men’s Interest” magazine section in the bookstore. Then the magazine had to meet two of the five following requirements:

1. It contains the word “health” or “fitness” in the title

2. The model on the cover is wearing workout attire or a swimsuit

3. The model is participating in a health or fitness related activity (running, cooking, a sport, working out)

4. ¾ of the headlines include health and fitness related topics (strength, changing your body, physical activity, well being, weight, dieting)

5.The most prominent headline is about health and/or fitness (strength, changing your body, physical activity, well being, weight, dieting). Methods Continued Preliminary Data Approximately 51% of health magazine headline frames are appearance related and 38% are body competence related.

The frames differ according to targeted gender, however: 51% of women’s health magazine headlines are appearance related and 23% are body competence related,

compared to 40% and 60% of men’s health magazine headlines. Preliminary Results and Conclusion Health magazines do not provide less appearance related headlines than body competence headlines

Women's health magazines provide more appearance-related headlines than men's health magazines.

The media is misleading and health magazines ARE NOT the exception.

In order to promote healthier body image and shift the socially constructed ideals of beauty, magazine companies should consider altering the framing of headlines in women’s magazines. Framing Theory Media frames can have an influence on the audience's thoughts and actions because of the way they impact memory.
When people see or hear media stimuli, ideas having similar meaning are activated for a short time afterward, and these thoughts can activate other related thoughts.
Ex. Jennings et al's study on objectified women Many young women say their main source of information on health comes from the media, including magazines and entertainment TV. (Commonwealth Fund, 1997) Then why doesn't it affect everyone?! Now that we know all of this, what can we do? Media Education Programs

Enforce the importance of positive role models
“It’s one thing to tell women to stop hating their bodies and another thing to show women how to like their bodies.”
-Renee Englen-Maddox, professor and body image expert

Ban discouraging forms of media
"We blame society, but we are society."

Policy letters
Example: Julia Bluhm The End The women’s health and fitness magazines included Inside Fitness, Women’s Health, Prevention, Fitness, Women’s Running, Fat Loss, Muscle & Fitness hers, Oxygen, Shape, First for Women, and Self.
The men’s health and fitness magazines included Men’s Running, Fitness Rx, Men’s Health, and Men’s Fitness.
Sampling strategy: go to the bookstore on the last week of the month and take pictures of the magazines located in the bookstore.
The magazines were then coded outside the bookstore. Methods- Coding Procedures The unit of analysis was the magazine cover headline, which is a phrase located on the cover of the magazine indicating the subject of a particular article.

Each magazine had between four and 11 cover headlines. In the 17 (12 female & 5 male) issues, 130 headlines were coded. Unit of Analysis Methods- Coding Procedures Magazine Cover The magazine’s cover was coded first.

Included: The title, month, price, the model’s race/ethnicity and clothing, the amount of the model’s body shown on the cover, the parts of the model's body that were revealed without clothing, and the parts of the body that were accentuated. Methods- coding procedures Framing Headlines The types of frames included:
educating readers on how to look better (appearance frame)
lose or maintain weight (weight loss/maintenance frame)
experience convenience (convenience frame)
save money (budget frame)
eat better (food frame)
increase sexual pleasure (sex frame)
improve the body’s instrumental traits (body competence frame)
be efficient (efficiency frame)
fit in with societal norms (social desirability)
increase emotional well-being (emotional well-being frame)
prevent or treat illness (prevention/treatment frame).
There were three frames for which a headline could be coded. Body dissatisfaction vs. ED vs. DE

Western ideals of thinness may be a trigger for someone with biological propensities.

Multiple risk factors

Genetic predispositions

Personality Traits

Biochemical predisposition (Estrogen, serotonin)

Psychopathological co-morbidities What if?...
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