Young people today are dying to be thin; literally. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, primarily affect teenage females living in western society. According to the United States National Eating Disorders Association, seventy million people worldwide suffer from an eating disorder. The three major causes of youth developing eating disorders are influences from the media, family members, and friends.
Images and words produced by western media is a major influence upon adolescents developing eating disorders. The average American child watches over twenty-one hours of television per week, which equates to a constant flow of commercials and programs presenting, if not promoting, emaciated models and actresses. According to the April 2002 edition of Health Magazine, thirty-two percent of television network characters are underweight, while only five percent of females in the North American audience are underweight. Viewers are receiving a distorted image of how the human body should look in order to attract the opposite sex, achieve a certain social status, or gain self-confidence. The image of the "ideal" body is forced upon the impressionable young minds of adolescents. An incorrect portrayal of the human body within the media is definitely a factor in the rising number of eating disorders in today's youth.
Family members also influence adolescents in developing eating disorders. Thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours that parents adopt towards their own bodies influence their children's thoughts of self-image. A parent who overemphasizes beauty and body shape within themselves can pass this mind-set onto their children. This chain of negative attitudes is damaging to a child's psyche, affecting self-confidence and eating habits. Parents are recommended to promote a healthy lifestyle without force and without limiting calorie intake. Family members possessing unhealthy attitudes towards body image, contributes to eating disorders among today's youth.