Medicine, Mind and Adolescence 1996, XI, 2

Eating disorders and exposure to television

Anna Pia Verri, Monica Silvia Verticale, Emanuela Vallero & Luigi Nespoli

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Aim: Among the variables thought to promote and maintain anorexia and bulimia, socio-cultural factors are considered the most important. The socio-cultural influences include the thin ideal body image espoused for women, the centrality of appearance in the female gender role, and the importance of appearance for women’s societal success (Stice 1994; Meade 1996).

The present study deals with the degree to which television influences the behaviour of teenager. Our aim is to assess the relationship between: (1) exposure to television and symptoms of eating disorders; (2) the influence of television on the choice of purchases (magazines, books, food and clothes); (3) television and the stereotype of the ideal body image.

Method: We studied 67 teenagers (36 females, 31 males; age range 15–20) from Pavia and 24 females (age range 15–21) affected by eating disorders (ED). They were assessed with DSM-IV criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) and EAT/26 test (Garner, 1982).

Results: The results support the assertion that teenagers with ED watch television for longer than normal subjects. ED patients are under the influence of television for their choice of purchases and tastes. Both groups prefer the thin body image, but, for ED patients, this is the most important factor.

Conclusion: In view of the present increase of ED among adolescents, it is our opinion that television programmes and advertising directed at adolescents should be subjected to more carefully scrutiny.

(Paper presented at the Siad Congress : It is never too early : adolescents and television, Varese, Italy, 6 July 1996).

Key Words: adolescence, eating disorders, television.

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