Background: There are no published studies evaluating the impact of introduction of television on disordered eating in media-naïve populations.
Aims: To assess the impact of novel, prolonged exposure to television on disordered eating attitudes and behaviours among ethnic Fijian adolescent girls.
Method: A prospective, multi-wave cross-sectional design was used to compare two samples of Fijian schoolgirls before and after prolonged regional television exposure with a modified 26-item eating attitudes test, supplemented with a semi-structured interview to confirm self-reported symptoms. Narrative data from a subset of respondents from the exposed sample were analysed for content relating television exposure to body image concerns.
Results: Key indicators of disordered eating were significantly more prevalent following exposure. Narrative data revealed subjects’ interest in weight loss as a means of modelling themselves after television characters.
Conclusions: This naturalistic experiment suggests a negative impact of television upon disordered eating attitudes and behaviours in a media-naïve population.