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According to a new European study, anorexia is a “socially transmitted” disorder that is more prevalent in France. Women in this area are thinner than average women and an economic analysis from the London School of Economics and Political Science agree.
Lead researchers Dr. Joan Costa-Font and Mireia Jofre-Bonet of the London School of Economics and Political Science have found that anorexia is “socially transmitted,” meaning peer group pressure is the driving force behind perceived self-image. These researchers studied nearly 3,000 young women across Europe and uncovered that anorexia developed out of desire to be like others, making it what some call “socially transmitted.”

The study found that physical appearance is a powerful motivator for human behavior among those studied and this was especially true regarding food and health. The social pressure was found to be the reason for the distorted self-perception of these young women’s bodies. This distortion of self-image and the existing food disorders may likely prompt government health officials to take action to encourage role models to maintain ideal weights and better health.

Costa-Font and Jofre-Bonet studied 2,871 women between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four who reported eating habits, age, gender, weight, height, marital status, profession, educational level, political attitudes, and their personal perception of their bodies. It was determined that some of the women were anorexic after their body mass index (BMI) was calculated.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that makes people obsess about their weight and the amount of calories they intake. Many become obsessed over the types of foods they eat and the amounts. Individuals who suffer with this condition attempt to maintain a weight that is far below what is healthy and normal for their age, height, and body shape. Many with anorexia exercise frequently and base self-worth on body image. These people have a distorted self-perception, too, thinking they look fat when in reality they are rail thin.

The exact cause of anorexia nervosa is not known and as with other mental health conditions, it is thought to be a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors. There may be genetic changes in some people making them more susceptible to the disease. Since modern Western culture emphasizes thinness in association with beauty, the media constantly displays images of skinny models and actors and success and worth is equated with this type of appearance. Some young women who have obsessive-compulsive personalities develop anorexia because they have an extreme drive for perfectionism, regardless of the health considerations.

According to Dr. Costa-Font, policies have been implemented in attempt to curb eating disorders in Europe, especially since Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died from this horrible disease in 2006. There are many support campaigns through social networks and the media, as well. This condition, however, remains at the center of controversy in Europe.

To prevent this condition, the Mayo Clinic staff recommends that primary care physicians and healthcare professionals identify early indicators of anorexia to prevent the development of full-blow illness. If you notice a loved one or friend is practicing dangerous dieting habits and complains about her appearance, talk to her about getting help.