Young people * Women's health * Healthy living * Weight loss * Mental wellbeing

Media "glamorise" eating disorders

Promote unhealthy body images

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has called for the media to stop promoting unhealthy body images and "glamorising" eating disorders.

The psychiatrists are particularly concerned about the use of pre-teen or underweight models to promote a perfect body image.

In addition, digitally altering pictures to make models and celebrities appear thinner, or airbrushing them to removes blemishes, produces perfect images which are unachievable in real life, leaving many people dissatisfied with their own bodies.

Instead, the media should be encouraged to use pictures of people with a greater variety of body shapes, to help people feel more positive about their own bodies.

Many magazine articles also "glamorise" weight loss and portray eating disorders as mild disorders or personal weaknesses, the College said. In reality, they are serious mental illnesses which need specialist treatment.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrienne Key, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Eating Disorders section, said: “There is a growing body of research that shows the media plays a part in the development of eating disorder symptoms – particularly in adolescents and young people.

"Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are serious mental illnesses.

"Although biological and genetic factors play an important role in the development of these disorders, psychological and social factors are also significant. That’s why we are calling on the media to take greater responsibility for the messages it sends out.”

The psychiatrists want the government to establish a forum consisting of representatives from the media, advertising agencies, eating disorders experts and politicians to tackle the "harmful" effects of such images on people's self esteem.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of beat, a charity which deals with eating disorders, added: “We welcome this call to action from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

"The media is a powerful influence and we know how vulnerable some people at risk of eating disorders can be to its visual images in particular. We know there is more that can be done to make that influence a positive one, and adopting the recommendations of the College’s statement would be an important step.”

This article was published on Tue 23 February 2010



Image © Gabi Moisa - Fotolia.com


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