Objective: Fashion warning labels that caution readers about digitally altered images have been recommended and adopted by several countries to prevent body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. This study investigated the short- and longer-term influence of fashion warning labels on affect, body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, and snack consumption using a randomized-controlled experiment. Method: Female undergraduates (n = 118) were randomized to view and rate responses to fashion images either with or without a warning label. They then consumed snacks and completed questionnaires. Sixty-four participants (54%) completed follow-up online surveys asking them to view and rate new fashion images with or without warning labels once per week for 4 weeks. Primary outcomes were affect, body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, and kilocalories consumed. Results: Overall, fashion warning labels had no short-term effects on affect, body dissatisfaction, or kilocalories consumed in the lab. However, individuals who reported engaging in restrictive eating consumed fewer kilocalories when exposed to advertisements with warning labels (M = 170.33, SD = 120.78) versus no labels (M = 286.46, SD = 166.30), p =.008. Warning labels also had no protective effects after repeated exposure over 4 weeks on affect or eating disorder symptoms, and significantly increased appearance orientation (p =.001). Discussion: Warning labels on media images are unlikely to be an effective policy tool to prevent negative affect, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorder symptoms, and, in some cases, may exacerbate these concerns.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Kelly Bauer for her assistance with data collection. This work was supported by a grant through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars program. Ann F. Haynos’ work was supported by two grants (T32MH082761 and K23MH112867) funded by the National Institute for Mental Health.
National Institute for Mental Health, Grant/ Award Numbers: K23MH112867, T32MH082761; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars program
- body dissatisfaction
- eating behavior
- eating disorder symptoms
- public policy
- warning labels