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Television exposure predicts body size ideals in rural Nicaragua

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lynda Boothroyd, Tracey Thornborrow, Dr Elizabeth EvansORCiD, Dr Martin Tovee



Internalisation of a thin ideal has been posited as a key risk factor in the development of pathological eating attitudes. Cross-culturally, studies have found a preference for heavier bodies in populations with reduced access to visual media compared to Western populations. As yet, however, there has been little attempt to control for confounding variables in order to isolate the effects of media exposure from other cultural and ecological factors. Here we examined preferences for female body size in relation to television consumption in Nicaraguan men and women, while controlling for the potential confounding effects of hunger and other sources of Westernization. We included an urban sample, a sample from a village with established television access, and a sample from a nearby village with very limited television access. The highest BMI preferences were found in the village with least media access, while the lowest BMI preferences were found in the urban sample. Data from the rural sample with established television access were intermediate between the two. Amongst rural women in particular, greater television consumption was a stronger predictor of body weight preferences than acculturation, education, hunger, or income. We also found some evidence for television consumption increasing the likelihood of women seeking to lose weight, possibly via body shape preferences. Overall, these results strongly implicate television access in establishing risk factors for body image disturbances in populations newly exposed to Western media.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Boothroyd LG, Jucker JL, Thornborrow T, Jamieson MA, Burt DM, Barton R, Evans EH, Tovée MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Psychology

Year: 2016

Volume: 107

Issue: 4

Pages: 752–767

Print publication date: 01/11/2016

Online publication date: 22/02/2016

Acceptance date: 12/01/2016

Date deposited: 12/01/2016

ISSN (print): 0007-1269

ISSN (electronic): 2044-8295

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12184


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Funder referenceFunder name
Durham University
RPG-2013-113Leverhulme trust