INCREASE IN EATING DISORDERS IN FIJI BLAMED ON TV

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 19, 1999 – Radio Australia)---American researchers say a sudden increase in eating disorders among teenage girls in Fiji may be linked to the arrival of television.

Harvard Medical School anthropology professor Anne Becker says since the introduction of television into Fiji, there has been a sharp rise in bulimia and anorexia.

She says a 1998 survey had found that nearly 75 percent of Fijian girls reported feeling "too big or fat."

Professor Becker says 15 percent of the teenage girls questioned reported they had vomited to control weight.

She says traditionally, Fijians have preferred a "robust, well-muscled body" for both sexes.

 

STUDY LINKS BULIMIA TO ARRIVAL OF TV IN FIJI

By Leslie Gevirtz

BOSTON, Massachusetts (May 19, 1999 - Reuters) - A sudden increase in eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia among teenage girls on Fiji may be linked to the arrival of television in the Pacific Island nation in 1995, Harvard researchers said Tuesday.

Harvard Medical School anthropology professor Anne Becker, who has studied Fijian eating habits since 1988, said that since television's introduction into the country, there had been a sharp rise in indicators of disordered eating, such as induced vomiting.

Some 74 percent of Fijian girls reported feeling ``too big or fat'' in a 1998 survey Becker conducted 38 months after the country's one television station began broadcasting. It airs British, New Zealand and U.S. programs such as ``Seinfeld,'' ''ER,'' ``Melrose Place'' and ``Xena: Warrior Princess.''

Becker, who was scheduled to present her findings at the American Psychiatric Association in Washington Wednesday, said in an interview that 15 percent of the teenage girls questioned reported they had vomited to control weight.

Traditionally, Fijians have preferred what Becker called a ''robust, well-muscled body'' for both sexes.

But with television's advent, adolescent girls became more aware of Western ideals of beauty.

``What I hope is that this isn't like the 19th century, when the British came to Fiji and brought the measles with them. It was a tremendous plague. One could speculate that in the 20th century, television is another pathogen exporting Western images and values,'' she said.

``Nobody was dieting in Fiji 10 years ago,'' Becker said, adding that at the end of almost every interview with teen-age girls they asked about dieting.

"The teenagers see TV as a model for how one gets by in the modern world. They believe the shows depict reality,'' she said.

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