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What Is the Effect of Models on Body Image?

Male models often appear perfectly fit.
Models can have a negative effect on body image, and lead to eating disorders.
Teen girls are very susceptible to the unrealistic standards set by thin models.
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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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Models are nearly ubiquitous in modern cultures, appearing in advertisements, on television, in magazines, and in many other media sources. Female models often appear to possess perfect skin and hair and are incredibly thin, while male models often appear perfectly fit and very well dressed. Many psychologists and social scientists have pointed out that the prevalence of models in societies may have a powerful effect on body image. The effect of models on body image is generally negative, as it prompts people to compare themselves to models who, in many cases, are deliberately presented to look flawless. The overall effect is, in many cases, a feeling of inadequacy that can lead to self-esteem problems, eating disorders, and other body-image issues.

The overall effect of models on body image varies based on a wide range of different factors, but particularly on gender and age. Females, for example, tend to suffer more negative effects than males, and young women and teens tend to be affected more than older women. There are a variety of societal factors that cause these differences. The ubiquity of thin, flawless models suggests to girls and young women that they are supposed to look a particular way, which can be quite devastating when they are too young to fully understand how unrealistic such expectations are. Male models are, in many cases, more varied and often emphasize wealth and status over physical appearance, so the effect of male models on body image is not always as significant.

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These destructive effects of thin, often scantily-clad models on body image can contribute to a variety of problems such as low self-esteem and eating disorders. People who compare themselves to unrealistic standards of attractiveness, weight, and sexuality may come to find themselves feeling inadequate. Those who cannot accept that they are holding themselves to unrealistic standards may become depressed and might even develop eating disorders, such as anorexia, because they feel that they need to be as thin as the models they see in media.

An increased feeling of insecurity about one's body is the most common impact of models on body image. Sadly, this is, in many cases, exactly what advertisers and others are trying to accomplish. People who are satisfied with their appearances are far less likely to spend money on health and beauty products, expensive health foods, and home-exercise equipment, not to mention diet pills and cosmetic surgeries, than those who can't accept themselves as they are.

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