Psychiatrists are today warning of the
‘damaging portrayal’ of eating disorders in the media.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Eating
Disorders Section are calling for a new editorial code to be drawn
up to encourage the media to stop promoting unhealthy body images
and ‘glamorising’ eating disorders.
Instead, the media should be encouraged to use
images of people with more diverse body shapes, and help people
feel more positive about their own bodies.
Members of the RCPsych Eating Disorders
Section say they are increasingly concerned about the harmful
influence of the media on people’s body image and self-esteem – and
are calling on the government to establish a new Forum to tackle
The Forum should include representatives from
the media and advertising agencies, regulatory bodies, eating
disorder experts, eating disorder organisations and
The psychiatrists are being backed in their
call by the eating disorders charity beat.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrienne Key, of
the RCPsych Eating Disorders Section, said: “The aims of the Forum
should be to collaboratively develop an ethical editorial code that
realistically addresses the damaging portrayal of eating disorders,
raises awareness of unrealistic visual imagery created through
airbrushing and digital enhancement, and also addresses the skewed
and erroneous content of magazines.”
Dr Key continued: “There is a growing body of
research that shows the media plays a part in the development of
eating disorder symptoms – particularly in adolescents and young
people. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia
nervosa, are serious mental illnesses. Although biological and
genetic factors play an important role in the development of these
disorders, psychological and social factors are also significant.
That’s why we are calling on the media to take greater
responsibility for the messages it sends out.”
new statement published today, members of the RCPsych Eating
Disorders Section outline three key areas of concern:
- Visual imagery – pre-teen or
underweight models are used by the media and advertising companies
to promote a thin body ideal, and airbrushing and digital
enhancement is widely used to portray physical perfection that is
unattainable in real life.
- Unbalanced articles – many
magazine articles give advice on dieting without giving information
about the long-term effectiveness of diets and the dangers of
extreme dieting. ‘Body critical’ articles also target celebrities
for being overweight, underweight or physically imperfect, which
normalises body criticism and can make people dissatisfied with
their own bodies.
- Inaccurate portrayal of eating
disorders – many articles ‘glamorise’ weight loss and
portray eating disorders as mild disorders or personal weaknesses,
rather than serious mental illnesses requiring specialist
Susan Ringwood, chief executive of beat, said:
“We welcome this call to action from the Royal College of
Psychiatrists. The media is a powerful influence and we know how
vulnerable some people at risk of eating disorders can be to its
visual images in particular. We know there is more that can be done
to make that influence a positive one, and adopting the
recommendations of the College’s statement would be an important
For further information, please
McLoughlin in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 07738 349070
Note to editors:
Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from February 22 – 28 February www.b-eat.co.uk