Thinness in media feeds body size obsession, researchers say

Dr Lynda Boothroyd Dr Lynda Boothroyd said the research gave "food for thought"

Related Stories

Women would be less obsessed with being thin if the media showed more pictures of larger models, Durham University research suggests.

Psychologists found that the size of models in photos exerted a powerful influence on attitudes to body size.

Study leader Dr Lynda Boothroyd said the media seemed a "powerful factor in creating body dissatisfaction".

A preference for thinness reduced significantly after the tested women were shown photos of larger models.

But after seeing similar photos of slender models, their preference for thinness increased.

Study leader Dr Lynda Boothroyd said: "There is evidence that being constantly surrounded through the media by celebrities and models who are very thin contributes to girls and women having an unhealthy attitude to their bodies.

"Although we don't yet know whether brief exposure to pictures of larger women will change women's attitudes in the long term, our findings certainly indicate that showing more 'normal' models could potentially reduce women's obsession for thinness," Dr Boothroyd added.

'Cautionary images'

More than 100 women in the study were shown images of thin and plus-size models and ordinary women in plain grey leotards.

The results supported the idea that, in Western culture, thinness was associated with good health and high status, researchers said.

"Thinner bodies are definitely in vogue and, within Western media, thinness is overwhelmingly idolised and being overweight is often stigmatised," Dr Boothroyd said.

Even so-called "cautionary" images warning of the perils of anorexia could increase preferences for thinner bodies, she added.

Rachel Cowey from South Shields, who developed anorexia at 16, said: "Within the media, being thin and attractive is linked to being successful.

"The doctors told me it was impossible to survive at the weight I was, yet the media constantly showed skinny celebrities who were apparently absolutely fine."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Tyne & Wear


Newcastle upon Tyne

Min. Night 1 °C

Features & Analysis

  • A very clever little girlBrain gain

    Why are people getting better at intelligence tests?

  • Don Roberto Placa Quiet Don

    The world's worst interview - with one of the loneliest men on Earth

  • Welsh society plaqueDistant valley

    How St David's Day is marked in one community far from Wales

  • Pakistani police officers escort Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, center, the main sispect in the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, after his court appearance in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec 30, 2014Freedom behind bars

    The luxury lifestyle of Pakistan's most notorious prisoner

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • KnucklesGood or bad?

    For many it can be very satisfying to 'crack' the bones in your hand, but is it bad for you?


  • BatteriesClick Watch

    More power to your phone - the lithium-ion batteries that could last twice as long

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.