Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Eating Disorders as a Social Problem. an Impact Analysis on Health Campaign Videos

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Eating Disorders as a Social Problem. an Impact Analysis on Health Campaign Videos

Article excerpt


The eating disorder phenomenon has become an intensely disputed social marketing product among developed societies. However, if we were to consider statistics, the viability of such an effort remains a dilemma. The number of persons affected by anorexia and bulimia is exponentially increasing along with the penetration of eating disorders into developing or even third world countries. An array of causes might be imputed to the futility of the social marketing actions, but a first step in effectively identifying those causes is to assess the impact of such activities. This study essays to shed light onto the impact analysis issue formerly mentioned and it was designed in several steps. During the first step, the vast literature regarding eating disorders was consulted in order to set the research direction. This theoretical background made it possible to identify various factors of influence that ought to be closely studied in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. The anorectic and bulimic mechanisms were then schematized for a thorough understanding. In the second stage of the study, the synthesized information was correlated with several theoretical models regarding message structure and expected reactions of the individuals. Therefore, the design of this study focuses on theoretical concepts in order to determine the extent to which a social marketing product follows the specialists' recommendations. The impact analysis has been applied to a series of videos that were part of several eating disorder social campaigns. Content analysis and focus groups were conducted during the study. The content analysis proved to be an efficient instrument for objectively determining the structure of the selected videos. The subjective dimension of the study, or the focus groups, tried to determine the level of impact and the efficiency of the videos as perceived by individuals. By combining the objective and subjective results major discrepancies were noticed, leading to the conclusion that the information contained in the messages conveyed is different from the actual information needed to obtain the desired behavior changes.

Keywords: eating disorders, health messages, perception, prevention, and social campaigns.


"Denial, duplicity, ignorance in terms of unconsciousness. A splendid isolation under the protection of a false self, a captive, chaotic, denied self".2 A proclamation against life itself. A life whose limits and standards are being established by a benighted society that has become impervious to individuals' specific needs. The anorectic/ bulimic persons trap themselves into their own universe, refuting any contact with the outer world.

Eating Disorders as a Social Problem

Contested, ignored by some or even unknown to others, eating disorders are a fierce and significant reality of our third millenium society. Their effects on those who fall prey to them are devastating. The anorectic/bulimic phenomenon skyrocketed as the paradigm of our society shifted toward judging people in terms of physical appearance or external beauty. The ever increasing duties a woman must honour (as a career person, a wife and a mother) or disfunctional families that put too much pressure on their children (in terms of expectations) are also catalysts of this phenomenon.

The prevalence of eating disorders has steadily risen during the past 50 years. Specialists assert that bulimia is 10 times more frequent than anorexia today, having surpassed depression as the major emotional imbalance among young women.3 According to Professor Haber from University of California, during the first years of the new millennium approximately 85% of American women presented certain eating issues. Researchers have constantly drawn our attention toward the globalization of the eating disorders phenomenon along with its increasing prevalence in various countries.4 Moreover, recent statistics provided by the Eating Disorder Foundation in Denver, Colorado claim that more than 10 million women and one million men suffer from either anorexia or bulimia, with these figures having doubled during the past 10 years; 3 out of 4 women declare themselves as overweight, although only one out of 4 actually is; in the 1970s, the average age a girl started dieting was 14. …

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