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NEW YORK — A new study confirms that female models are often forced to go to great, potentially harmful lengths to simply stay employed.

Published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers from Northeastern University, Harvard, and the labor organization The Model Alliance, looked at 85 adult models, with a mean age of 22.7 years, who had taken part in New York Fashion Week in 2016.

Through anonymous survey responses, the researchers found that 81% of models possess a Body Mass Index, or BMI, that would be classified as underweight.

Most models reported being underweight, and many turn to unhealthy methods to keep the pounds away, researchers found.

Many of the models examined used unhealthy methods to maintain a lean frame, a strategy that can particularly backfire on younger models. Already being underweight and having an eating disorder “can have serious consequences on growth and development… for life,” Rachel Rogers, the study’s author and professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University, told BuzzFeed Health.

This study is notable in that it is the first to find a causal relationship between real or perceived pressure from agencies to maintain a certain appearance, and eating disorders.

Sixty-two percent of the models surveyed reported having been asked to shed weight, while 54% were told that they wouldn’t be able to get work unless they lost weight. Twenty-one percent were told by their agency that they would be let go unless they dropped some pounds.

The study noted the models would consequently turn to dangerous measures in order to keep their jobs by “sometimes, often, or always” resorting to one or more of these methods:

  • 71% stuck to a specific diet
  • 56% skipped meals
  • 52% fasted or used detox programs
  • 23% used weight loss supplements and/or diet pills
  • 16% used stimulants such as Ritalin
  • 8% turned to self-induced vomiting
  • 7% used cocaine
  • 2% used IV bags meant for undernourished patients in hospitals

Beyond the consequences that unnaturally-thin models directly experience, the phenomenon has a negative impact on greater society, as these models project a standard for which other women strive.

In other words, average women begin to feel it’s imperative to become or stay thin.

About Daniel Steingold

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