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The symptom of a far greater disease

The symptom of a far greater disease

By CASSANDRA CHARLESWORTH

She may have a league of fans, but this week Kim Kardashian is under fire for a move that many say promotes eating disorders.

In a now-deleted Instagram post, the star shared an advertisement for appetite suppressant lollipops, hailing them as "literally unreal".

It’s prompted a massive backlash that saw her labelled as “toxic”, “terrible” and “deeply irresponsible”. But while the plug may have been misguided is it possible Kardashian is feeling the kickback of a far greater problem?

The now deleted post from Kim Kardashian's Instagram

Her post comes at a time when research has linked social media to eating disorders and the number of those suffering from illnesses like bulimia, anorexia and binge eating is on the rise.

Some serious statistics

Take a good look around you and chances are you know at least a couple of people in your immediate circle of friends who struggle with body image.

In 2005 a study commissioned by Dove surveyed 3300 women and found 67 percent of all women aged 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling bad about their looks.

For 15 percent of all women that negative view of their body translates into an eating disorder at one point or another over the course of their life, according to statistics compiled by Eating Disorders Victoria.

The Butterfly Foundation notes this figure is on the rise, with approximately nine percent (two million) Australians experiencing an eating disorder requiring clinical intervention at some point in their life.

“People of all demographics are affected including men and women of all ages, and children as young as five years of age,” they note.

In young women, further statistics indicate eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness and that figure doesn’t even count those who go undiagnosed, which is estimated to be as high as 20 percent.  

For those living with the anguish, guilt, frustration and physical impacts of an eating disorder, it’s not a lifestyle choice, or a diet gone too far, it’s a lonely, frightening, and all-consuming place.

Social media and body image

It comes as little surprise that social media usage was recently linked to eating disorders in a study by the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The perfect bodies portrayed in magazines on films and TV have long been a factor in how women feel about themselves. Now it's available to us 24/7 coming directly to phones and tablets.

But the study reveals some fascinating results.

“The participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media. And participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently.”

Kim Kardashian may be a proponent of social media, but she’ as much a victim to it as any other woman defining themselves against the perfect images it provides.

So, misguided her post may have been and possibly irresponsible too. But perhaps she’s just the symptom of a much greater disease.

For help and support with eating disorders, call the national support line: 1800 334 673

CASSANDRA CHARLESWORTH

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her loungeroom floor and creating stylish Barbie attire from all manner of household objects are just a couple of credentials she’s recently added to her resume.

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