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The Effects of Women's Magazines on Body Image


Women's magazines tend to perpetuate a frustrating concept: that females should strive to look as perfect, thin and unblemished as magazine models who are photoshopped and edited to look that way.

For most women, it's an impossible ideal to actualize.

Researchers have long established a link between body dissatisfaction and exposure to these types of magazine images, but the effects can be much more detrimental than just frustration or poor self-esteem.

Eating disorders and media

Several studies have linked women's magazines to disordered eating behavior, suggesting that young women are particularly vulnerable to the images they see in print media.

A 2004 study in Eating Disorders found that college women who were exposed to "thin-ideal" images from popular magazines were more likely to have decreased body satisfaction, negative moods, and eating disorder symptoms.

Another study published in 1999 found that the more girls try to look like the women they see in magazines, television or movies, the more likely they are to use laxatives or turn to bulimic behaviors to control their weight.

Repeat exposure

Frequency of exposure to women's magazines may also play a role in body dissatisfaction.

In one study, researchers found the more often girls read women's magazines, the more they reported dieting to lose weight - specifically because of an article, a picture, or a feeling that was provoked by reading the magazine.

This repeat exposure helps to reinforce what is considered an "ideal" shape and weight.

Depression, guilt and shame

In addition to body dissatisfaction, women's magazines might also add to a negative mental state, according to a study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Researchers found that exposure to slides of women featured in mainstream magazines and ads was associated with increased levels of depression, guilt, shame, stress and insecurity among women.

The role of fashion

Fashion magazines, in particular, have been linked strongly to body dissatisfaction.

One study published in Adolescence found that women who viewed fashion magazines were more preoccupied with the desire to be thin - and they were also more afraid of getting fat than their peers.

Reading fashion magazines, research suggests, is also more closely linked to body dissatisfaction than watching television.

Source: Westminister College,
Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/