Appearance trumps health in young women

Aug. 15, 2012 at 1:09 AM
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COLUMBIA, Mo., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Young U.S. women say appearance is more important than health in caring for their body because society rewards women for "looking good," researchers say.

Maria Len-Rios, an associate professor of strategic communication; Suzanne Burgoyne, a professor of theater; and a team of undergraduate researchers at the University of Missouri asked college-age women how they viewed their bodies and how they felt about media messages aimed at women.

"During our focus group conversations, we learned that young people don't think about nutrition when it comes to eating," Len-Rios said in a statement. "They think more about calorie-counting, which isn't necessarily related to a balanced diet."

The researchers completed in-depth interviews with nutritional counselors who said lack of time and unhealthy food environments can keep college-age students from getting good nutrition.

"We receive so many conflicting media messages from news reports and advertising about how we should eat, how we should live and how we should look," Len-Rios said. "Some participants said they realize images of models are digitally enhanced, but it doesn't necessarily keep them from wanting to achieve these unattainable figures -- this is because they see how society rewards women for 'looking good.'"

The findings were presented at the annual Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference in Chicago.

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