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The Media’s Distortion of Body Image

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

By Emma Ferraro

May 6, 2022

UPDATED 12:00 PM EST



[Photo Credit: Walden University]


In the 21st century, children are growing up with those deemed by society as beautiful at the forefront of their media. Through film, children and young adults can attain a skewed perception of reality in regards to body image. Lighting and camera angles paired with actors that epitomize modern beauty standards can lead to body image issues in young and impressionable viewers that don’t see these unrealistic similarities in their own bodies. It is no secret that these portrayals in the media have negative effects on viewers⎯especially those that are young.


According to a survey on body image conducted by the UK House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, 65% of people under the age of 18 are likely to suffer with negative emotions towards their appearance, along with 45% of those 18 and over. The fact that this statistic is 20% greater for those that are not yet adults is deeply concerning, proving that young people are very susceptible to issues regarding body image. This statistic grows even larger when taking into account those with disabilities and those that aren’t cisgender. This issue can be exacerbated by a lack of representation, thus why these minorities face it on an even greater scale.


As the expansion of television grows and begins being introduced to people at much younger ages, body image issues grow to be more prevalent. As stated in a study, The Effects of Appearance-Based Reality Shows on Body Image, “Research has shown that increased exposure to thin images in the media is associated with higher body dissatisfaction and eating disorder features.” The media allows for an imperceivable number of depictions of unattainable bodies to be at our fingertips at all times, which is extremely damaging and can lead to people taking dangerous measures to change their body compositions.


According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls “want to be thinner,” 81% of 10 year old children are “afraid of being fat,” and 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “‘sometimes’ or ‘very often’ on diets.” These are children that haven’t graduated grammar school that already feel such negative emotions towards their bodies. Statistics so substantial do not spawn out of thin air―these unrealistic beauty standards are being pushed on prepubescent children through the media. This source also states that eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness, only trailing behind opioid overdose.


The growing prevalence and persisting danger of eating disorders and negative emotions held by children towards their own bodies is eye opening and extremely concerning. More needs to be done to help children steer clear of this dangerous negativity towards the bodies that they should love―for these bodies are where they must spend their entire lives.


References

"Body Image Survey Results." UK Parliament Committees, House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, 23 Sept. 2020, committees.parliament.uk/publications/2691/documents/26657/default/.

"Eating Disorder Statistics." National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 3 Nov. 2021, anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/.

TheScholarsRepository@LLU: Digital Archive of Research, Scholarship & Creative Works | Loma Linda University Research, scholarsrepository.llu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1326&context=etd.


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