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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note/TV & Body Image

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a study that links television-viewing with adolescent eating disorders.


CURWOOD: Just ahead, science fiction is becoming science fact. The melding of men and machines called cyborgs. First, the Environmental Health Note from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: Women on TV shows like "Friends," "Ally McBeal" and "Sex and the City," are young and glamorous. And for many female viewers, they set the bar for body image.

But they also may have created an unhealthy trend. A study just published in The British Journal of Psychiatry shows, for the first time, a possible link between television viewing and adolescent eating disorders. Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that after watching Western TV programs, women in Fiji started dieting and purging.

The researchers surveyed the teenagers first in 1995, just one month after the introduction of television to the island, and then again, three years later. They found that 11 percent of the women reported self-induced vomiting. Nearly 75 percent felt they were too big or fat. And 69 percent said they had started dieting to lose weight.

In one-on-one interviews, women said they had to lose weight in order to look and act like the women of TV. Dieting is a new trend in Fiji, which has traditionally embraced a healthy and generous appetite. 84 percent of women in the survey were overweight or obese. And none were able to lose any weight.

Researchers say the reason for this may be the Fijian society’s ingrained disdain and vigilance against small bodies and even smaller appetites. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Jennifer Chu.


CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.




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