Anorexia May Be a 'Socially Transmitted' Disease

Anorexia nervosa is a disease that tends to affect younger women, and cases have been on the rise for years. Now, analysis of a 3,000 person data set by the London School of Economics shows that simply being surrounded by thinner peers is enough to increase a woman's chances of "catching" the disorder.

In what is being called the first economic study of anorexia, in which a person's distorted self-image leads them to eat less or not at all, LSE researchers found that not only do the images seen in magazines and billboards affect body image, but so do the sizes and shapes of a woman's cultural peer group. The study looked at rates of anorexia in the UK and Europe.

In countries like France, with thinner women (on average), rates of anorexia are likely to be higher, and LSE scientists have begun thinking of it as a "socially transmitted disease". Furthermore, this latest study comes with a recommendation for greater government intervention in the kinds of images that can be shown to the public.

Governments in Europe have been more willing to regulate the display of images of super-skinny models by fashion companies since the 2006 death of Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, but that might not be enough, say researchers. More positive encouragement has to be provided to young women not to judge themselves by the shape of others.

Ninety percent of anorexia cases are women between 15 and 34 years of age, and rates of incidence for that group in Europe range from around 0.3 percent to four percent. The rate of incidence in the US is about 0.5 percent, with over seven million women affected.

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Pexels

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