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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Impact of today's media on university student's body image in Pakistan: a conservative, developing country's perspective

Amad N Khan1*, Salema Khalid1, Hussain I Khan1 and Mehnaz Jabeen2

Author Affiliations

1 Aga Khan University Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Aga Khan University Hospital, Research Office, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:379  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-379

Published: 24 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Living in a world greatly controlled by mass media makes it impossible to escape its pervading influence. As media in Pakistan has been free in the true sense of the word for only a few years, its impact on individuals is yet to be assessed. Our study aims to be the first to look at the effect media has on the body image of university students in a conservative, developing country like Pakistan. Also, we introduced the novel concept of body image dissatisfaction as being both negative and positive.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted among 7 private universities over a period of two weeks in the city of Karachi, Pakistan's largest and most populous city. Convenience sampling was used to select both male and female undergraduate students aged between 18 and 25 and a sample size of 783 was calculated.

Results

Of the 784 final respondents, 376 (48%) were males and 408 (52%) females. The mean age of males was 20.77 (+/- 1.85) years and females was 20.38 (+/- 1.63) years. Out of these, 358 (45.6%) respondents had a positive BID (body image dissatisfaction) score while 426 (54.4%) had a negative BID score. Of the respondents who had positive BID scores, 93 (24.7%) were male and 265 (65.0%) were female. Of the respondents with a negative BID score, 283 (75.3%) were male and 143 (35.0%) were female. The results for BID vs. media exposure were similar in both high and low peer pressure groups. Low media exposure meant positive BID scores and vice versa in both groups (p < 0.0001) showing a statistically significant association between high media exposure and negative body image dissatisfaction. Finally, we looked at the association between gender and image dissatisfaction. Again a statistically significant association was found between positive body image dissatisfaction and female gender and negative body image dissatisfaction and male gender (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions

Our study confirmed the tendency of the media to have an overall negative effect on individuals' body image. A striking feature of our study, however, was the finding that negative body image dissatisfaction was found to be more prevalent in males as compared to females. Likewise, positive BID scores were more prevalent amongst females.