Adolescents who read magazines and watch television contents that deal with the concept of image prove to be unhappier with their own bodies. Girls are more susceptible to experiencing a lower perception of their physical appearance. Body dissatisfaction is linked to the type of content that is consumed (diet, beauty, health or music videos) rather than the frequency of exposure.
María Calado, lead author of the study and researcher at the Meixoeiro Hospital in Vigo explains that "although the relationship between exposure to magazines and television and body dissatisfaction exists, it is not a direct one. There are psychological variables that can moderate this relationship, such as eating disorders, self-esteem or the internalisation of a thin body being the ideal."
Published in Women's Health Issues, the study assesses the relationship that exposure to magazines and television, the above mentioned psychological variables and body mass index (BMI) have with body dissatisfaction in terms of gender. It also determines what factors can foretell such dissatisfaction.
For this purpose, the researchers analysed a representative sample group of 1165 Spanish secondary school students between the ages of 14 and 16 years. The results show that body dissatisfaction is linked to exposure to certain types of media content which deals with body image (diet, beauty, health or music videos) rather than the frequency of exposure.
Men and women with body dissatisfaction display differences which depend on the studied psychological variables. Furthermore, "the effect is seen mainly in women," states Calado, who adds that "other pressures are exerted on men that are mainly linked to achieving a muscular body."
Although the women had a lower BMI than the men, they displayed greater body dissatisfaction (16.5% in women as opposed to 5.4% in men), internalisation of the ideal body, social comparison, eating disorders and low self-esteem. "What is more, high body dissatisfaction in men is associated with a lower exposure to fitness content on television and magazines," outlines the researcher.
The authors of the study stress that in the future the ways in which the media can affect internalisation of physical ideals should be studied. This could form the basis of developing body image, diet and weight alterations.
Calado concludes that "this study could be very beneficial for the government with regards to promoting a positive body image and could shed new light on health prevention for health professionals."
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