Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Eating Disorders and Advertising Effects: An Exploration

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Eating Disorders and Advertising Effects: An Exploration

Article excerpt


The purpose of this manuscript is to describe a study designed to furnish insights into various relationships between advertising and anorexia nervosa and bulemia among university students. The inquiry measured self image and ideal self image and correlated these assessments to the occurrence of the eating disturbances and to measures of advertising and merchandising. The results led to a number of recommendations for marketers who choose to assist in preventing and abating eating disorders.


Marketing and consumer researchers have devoted considerable effort in search of serviceable answers for pressing societal difficulties (Porter & Kramer, 2002; Christie, Fisher, Kozup, & Smith, 2001; Wagner & Hansen, 2002; Murphy, 1998). A significant proportion of this endeavor has applied conventional research methodologies to macro-level questions (Rentschler & Wood, 2001; Karande, Rao, & Singhapakdi, 2002). Another field of concentration for researchers has been micro-issues facing organizations with societal goals. Hibbert, Piacentini and Al Dajani (2003), for instance have examined volunteer motivation for participation in community-based food cooperatives. Carrigan and Attalla (2001) and Sen and Bhattacharya (2001) have focused on whether or not customers care about ethical behavior and socially-responsible actions to the degree that they significantly affect their purchasing behavior. In a somewhat similar study, Miles and Covin (2000) considered the relationship between environmental marketing and reputational, competitive, and financial advantages accruing to the firm.

A considerable number of research endeavors have concentrated on the effects of advertising and other promotion vehicles on phenomena that are related to social responsibility (Bloch & Richins,1992). Kreth (2000), for instance, has examined the degree to which marketers exercise social responsibility in making advertised health claims for dietary supplements (Pechmann, Zhao, Goldberg, & Reibling, 2003) have conducted research to assist in identifying effective message themes to be used in antismoking advertisements for adolescents. Peterson (2002) considered the extent and degree of favorableness of the depiction of African American Childrens' activities in television commercials. Odekerken-Schroder, De Wulf, and Hofstee (2002) have examined the extent to which gender stereotyping in advertising is related to the incidence of masculinity in the culture of various countries.

A social responsibility issue which marketing and consumer behavior researchers have largely disregarded is the widespread existence of eating disorders among young people, especially females. Research indicates that this is a major social problem (Hoskins, 2002; Johnson & Larson, 1982). Large numbers of individuals have fallen prey to anorexia nervosa and bulemia. Research estimates vary, but generally they suggest that nearly twenty percent of the individuals in the 17-20 age grouping are victims of the two eating disorders, while other age groupings possess smaller percentages (Steiger, Bruce, & Israel, 2003; Jacobson, 1985). Increasingly, larger numbers of college, high school, middle school, and even elementary school students are becoming victims (Schur, Sanders, & Steiner, 2000). The largest proportion, however, falls in the college-age female category (Schwitzer, Bergholz, & Terri, 1998). The effects on the emotional, physical, and mental health of these individuals and their families have been considerable (DiConsiglio, 2000).

Research has been undertaken in recent periods on the underlying conditions, causes, main victims, and potential cures for these disorders. Social pressure to be thin has emerged as a potential causal factor (Stice, Maxfield, & Wells, 2003). Other studies have uncovered social dependency, need for approval, and fear of rejection as influences (Hayaki, Friedman, Whisman, Delinsky, & Brownell, 2003). …

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