45 leading academics, doctors and psychologists from around the world have signed a research paper detailing how pictures of airbrushed (digitally enhanced) models in advertisements can cause serious harm to viewers.

The report titled “The Impact of Media Images on Body Image and Behaviours: A Summary of the Scientific Evidence” summarises the research of the effects of airbrushing in advertisements. The report emphasises that airbrushed models in advertising can cause such serious health problems as eating disorders and depression.

The 45 signatures on the report include that of the President of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Eating Disorders, the director of the Centre for Appearance Research in the U.K. and five academics from universities around Australia.

In August the Liberal Democrats of the U.K. launched the Real Women campaign to highlight the dangers of airbrushing in ads. The Impact of Media Images report is in response to a request by the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) to see the evidence for the damage airbrushed ads can cause.

The report recommends the establishment of 5 policies:

  • No digitally altered models in advertising aimed at under 16s
  • Clear labelling of digitally altered models in all other advertising.
  • Models used in Fashion Weeks to have a health certificate from an eating disorder specialist, in order to protect their health and well-being.
  • Encouragement for use of diverse and healthy body sizes in all media models.
  • Media literary programmes about ‘perfected’ models as part of school curricula to encourage critical awareness and resilience in children and adolescents.

The report can be read at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

The Real Women campaign website can be found here.

Writer Tristan Boyd, Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.