239697 Influence of visual media and social-support networks on disordered eating behavior

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ellyn Leighton-Herrmann, MA , Department of Social and Behavioral Health, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
The thin body image portrayed as ideal in Western culture contributes to both mental and physical health issues. Self-surveillance (the process of appearance evaluation based on the internalized thin-ideal) and body shame (feelings of shame when one's body does not conform to the thin-ideal) can result in subsequent disordered-eating behavior. Approximately 10% of female undergraduates suffer from a clinical or sub-clinical eating disorder.

The current study sought to understand the influence of various sociocultural factors that communicate this thin-ideal. We explored the influence of visual media (e.g., television, movies, magazines) and social-support networks (e.g., friends and family) on body-image preoccupation (self-surveillance and body shame) and disordered-eating behavior. Four-hundred seventy-eight, predominately Caucasian, undergraduate females at a mid-Atlantic university completed instruments that assessed these sociocultural factors, internalization of the thin-ideal, self-surveillance and body shame, and disordered-eating behaviors. Path analysis indicated that visual media and one's social-support network were significantly related to the mental health outcomes of self-surveillance and body shame via the internalization of the thin-ideal. Furthermore, body shame was significantly related to disordered-eating behaviors.

Understanding the critical influence of the social-support network and visual media on young women's mental health and subsequent disorder-eating behavior is essential to addressing this public health concern. Developing comprehensive educational programs using a multipronged approach to underscore both the role of social support and visual media in potentially cultivating body shame are essential. Future research should focus on the directionality of these relationships in order to better inform the focus of preventative efforts.

Learning Areas:
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the role of visual media and social-support networks in contributing to self-surveillance and body shame. 2. Identify various sociocultural media that can impact the development of disordered-eating behaviors. 3. Describe the relationships between these sociocultural media, thin-ideal internalization, body preoccupation, and disordered eating behaviors.

Keywords: Mental Health, Education

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the lead investigator on the research study discussed in this presentation. I was involved in the design, implementation, and data analysis processes.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.