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Running Head: Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

Association Between Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa in Young Women


Shanel Naoum
University of North Florida

Anorexia Nervosa has had a heavy increase in prevalence through the years; just as mass
media has affected many young women in the way they view body image. Women have been

Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

integrated into mass media in several ways such as advertisements, posts on Facebook,
magazines, and television all of which increase self-esteem issues in young women. Mass media
leads the younger generation to believe that there is an ideal body image, this begins to convince
young women that there is a certain look that looks good rather than spreading the awareness that
all body shapes and sizes are beautiful. Being exposed to media that promotes thin body styles
spreads body dissatisfaction, negative moods, lower self esteem, and levels of depression. Body
image has become a huge concern to college girls all over the country. A study conducted at the
University of Connecticut explored the idea that thin-ideal images have an effect on body image
issues and social comparison among young women. A total of 112 undergraduate women with
high and low body image were acquired to different advertisements with (thin ideal) or without
(neutral-advertisement control) thin women. Women with high levels of body image were more
immune to social comparison of thin-ideal advertisements as well as being negatively affected by
them. (Bessenoff et.al., (2006)
Suffering from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa has become an increasing
trend for young women. Women who suffer from anorexia nervosa will go out of their way to not
complete meals in fear that they are overweight, they will diet and not eat the correct foods the
body needs to grow. Girls obtain the idea about there is a perfect body image based on the slim
women shown through mass media. For example, slim women seen in magazine advertisements
can affect the mood and body dissatisfaction of women reading the magazine. In South Australia
at Flinders University, a study was conducted that used a total of 126 women to view the same
advertisements in fashion and beauty magazines. The advertisements reveal skinny full-body and
body parts of women. The mean age of women in this study was 20 and averagely read 3-4
beauty and fashion magazines. The outcome was that only 6 out of 126 women (4.8%) reported

Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

that they did not look through the magazines. (McGill et. al., (2004) Sufficient data was created
on how big of an impact different types of mass media has on the way college girls view their
bodies, even if it is simply just a magazine advertisement. Most young women are beginning a
new chapter in their life, involving them trying to fit in. Women that focus on what mass media
portrays as the perfect body image can lead them the eating disorder, Anorexia nervosa. Having
anorexia nervosa makes women think their body is a lot bigger than it is. Extensive work has
been made based on the relationship between young women and mass media, researchers have
shed more light on the topic of anorexia nervosa and the exposure college women have to media.
There is a result that self esteem and depression concerns have occurred which is a cause of
anorexia nervosa. A key finding was that the health of most college girls is easily affected by
material seen through mass media. (Kim, et. al., (2007); (Juarascio, et. al., (2010) Although past
research has found that mass media and anorexia nervosa is effective in young women,
researchers do not have an actual answer. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to examine if
there is a connection between the two. If young women aged 18-24 are staying updated with
mass media today and begin to suffer from anorexia nervosa, then it is expected to have a
positive correlation.
Facebook
The majority of the articles found for this review indicates that anorexia nervosa has a
relation to mass media in young women. The purpose of this review is to study the outcome of
how mass media and anorexia nervosa effects young women as a community, however, a study
among public middle and high school girls was made in New York state to prove if there was a
relationship between body image and adolescent female activity on Facebook. A survey among
103 adolescent female students was given and proved to have a positive correlation between

Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

body image disturbance and Facebook appearance exposure. Nonetheless, body image
disturbance, Facebook use, and total internet use had no significant correlation for non-users and
a physical appearance mean of 12.14. (Meier et. al., (2014) The Southeastern State University
campus directed two studies; one study using 960 women and the second study using 84 random
women on campus. The survey was to argue that social media sites, such as Facebook, merges
the factors of media and peers together to influence a risk for eating disorders. This study
presented that most women were using Facebook on a weekly basis. It was discussed that the
state of anxiety compared to alternate internet activity has a connection to Facebook posts and
disordered eating habits associated with the body weight and shape of a women. Women were
more concerned with how many likes on a post they received on Facebook. It was mentioned
that if an intervention and prevention program targeted social media such as Facebook, then it
could be extremely accommodating for women with low self esteem while also decreasing their
risk of anorexia nervosa. (Mabe et. al, 2004)
Other Media
Furthermore, a study created in communication department at a Midwestern University
demonstrated the relationship between male and female media consumption and eating disorders.
A study of 232 female and 190 male undergraduates with an outcome that both anorexic and
bulimic behavior were significantly predicted overall. For women, mass media was predicted to
bring upon dissatisfaction and desire for thinness. While for men, mass media was predicted to
make them diet more. Another factor of mass media that was tested was magazine reading, it was
found that magazine reading was a more stable predictor than television viewing. Most women
and men that had an interest in fitness and dieting that were in relationship remained sufficient.
Thinness-depicting and thinness-promoting media was proven to be associated with suffering

Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

from eating disorders. However, mass media topics such as fitness or dieting was not proven to
start eating disorders. (Harrison et. al., (1997) On the other hand, a study was directed to
demonstrate social comparison among body image, mood, and televised attractiveness. A total of
180 females around the age of 22 were tested on their social comparison based on three
conditions: comparison, distraction, and neutral. The comparison condition reported to be a
greater model than the distraction or neutral conditions. There was a three-way collaboration
between condition, television, and time based on the measure of young women appearance
frustration suggesting that comparison body images were more negatively affected than the other
conditions. Anger, anxiety, and depression was also measured, revealing that there is a
connection associated with viewing media images promoting thin and attractive women.
(Cattarin et. al., (2000)
In addition, the purpose behind the review of mass media and anorexia nervosa in young
women has been to observe if there is any type of relation between the two. My hypothesis that
there is a positive correlation of young women aged 18-24 that stay updated with the mass media
begin to suffer from anorexia nervosa is verified to be appropriate. The knowledge fabricated
from the majority of the articles used, the idea behind this review is supported impressively
stating that mass media does have an effect in young women who suffer anorexia nervosa. Based
on the results of this study, public health practitioners can use this information to further study
how anorexia nervosa and mass media both associate with young women. Researchers findings
suggest that if there was more funding on this matter then more health care professionals can be
able make more tests to grasp if there is actual conclusive evidence between mass media and
anorexia nervosa on this specific age group of women. If there was more funding for public
health practitioners and eating disorders, then it would be treated like a greater concern and

Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

young women with anorexia nervosa can be recognized and assisted. It would help more women
not continue to suffer from anorexia nervosa if health care practitioners reach out more to the
media industry. If the media industry and the health field worked together on trying to prevent
eating disorders like anorexia nervosa by attempting to use multiple types of body weight and
shapes of women in advertisements, television, magazines, etc. then tested to see if the
community of young women is affected by this and if there will be a decrease in women
suffering from anorexia nervosa. Public health practitioners from different states or even
countries should start relating the information they have on this issue to see if a bigger jump can
be made in making a difference by spreading more knowledge about eating disorders through
media to young women and how seeking help should be their first priority. I believe that if we
can prevent more women from reaching the point where they acquire an eating disorder then
more women will not be affected. The common impression that research suggests is that there is
conclusive evidence between mass media and anorexia nervosa in young women.

References
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Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

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Mass Media and Anorexia Nervosa

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