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Plus-Size Models and Mental Health

Recently, average and plus-size models have been integrated into advertising, music videos, and other forms of media. The response often focuses on the satisfaction felt by viewers after seeing a more realistic size represented. With more than one-third of Americans being considered obese, the abundance of thin models seen on screen and in social media can lead to negativity and poor body image. This issue can also occur in Americans that are not obese, but still compare themselves to underweight models and celebrities.

A research team at Florida State University School of Communication set out to understand how college women respond to different body sizes on television. Their study, entitled “Is plus size equal? The positive impact of average and plus-sized media fashion models on women’s cognitive resource allocation, social comparisons, and body satisfaction” was published in the journal Communication Monographs. The team recruited forty-nine women who gave the indication they wanted to lose weight. In the study, they were shown images of models of various sizes and body types on a TV screen. Then, their psychological and physiological response was measured through follow-up questions and heart rate measurement respectively.

The results showed that overwhelmingly participants remembered more about the average or plus-size models compared to thin models. Additionally, they made fewer comparisons to their own body when viewing and recalling these images. Higher body satisfaction was also reported for the average and plus-size images. The opposite results occurred when the participants were asked about the thin size model images. This study sheds light on an important direction for future research related to body image, advertising, and overall mental health. The inclusion of diverse sizes in media may lead to heightened psychological health for women with unsatisfactory body images. More research should be conducted to include both men and women who have no desire for weight change. This would determine if their psychological health can be impacted positively as well.

To read more about this research, visit this link.

Editor: Maria ‘Stefi’ Ticsa