How Manipulating Images in Magazines Leads to Mental Health Issues

Cody N. Tackett

Humans have been fascinated with body image for centuries. Those who lived in Ancient Greece felt that a beautiful body was reflective of a beautiful mind. The Ancient Greeks also believed that their deities took on the form of humans, and therefore a “perfect” body image was considered a symbol of strength and heroism. That notion of strength associated with a certain body image has remained prevalent into the present day. In our present times, however, we have a tool that the Ancient Greeks didn’t; digital editing, and with that, the fixation on the human body has only continued to grow more intense; but now publications are using their editing tools to create completely fabricated images of humans, which leads to deception.

Often, magazines alter images of models in their advertisements in order to make their images (and the publication overall) more appealing to their audiences. In doing so, magazines and ad companies create an “ideal” body image that is nearly impossible to replicate. Even though the practice of altering digital images through photoshopping is widely known, this doesn’t stop people from attempting to obtain the “doll-like” appearances that photoshopping creates. Many people push themselves to their breaking points to lose a certain amount of pounds by a date they set for themselves, or they lose weight solely to look good at an upcoming event that they must attend. It’s always good to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle, but when a person drives themselves into a state of depression and despair due to what they consider a bad body image,

The impacts of these images in magazines and advertisements go far beyond setting unrealistic weight loss goals, however. Most significantly, people’s self esteems and self-images are impacted as they view themselves through a critical lens. In turn, people go to dire lengths only to feel good about themselves, which leads them down a path towards various eating disorders such as anorexia. With suicide rates at an all-time high, problems that instigate mental health issues need to be addressed and lack of self-worth is a driving force for depression, anxiety, and suicide.

There has been pushback however to the digital alterations made to images in media. In 2014, the Truth in Advertising Act was introdudced which was intended to hold advertisers accountable for the validity of their content. This imposed blanket legislation upon advertisers as well as publications, and required them to label digitally altered images as not being entirely authentic. The bill hasn’t been active however since 2016, and has yet to be voted upon. The use of phptoshop has been banned in Israel, and in France advertisers must label their content when digital alterations are made. The UK introduced a bill similar to the Truth in Advertising Act in 2021 that would require labels on digitally altered images, That bill is still active in Parlaiment, but there is no final word yet on its outcome.

DIgital alterations in media remaisn common practice, but people are beginning to develop different outlooks on body image with a developing notion of “body acceptance” taking place among younger generations. Therefore, even if photoshopping remains a common practice; people are becoming desensitized to its psychological effects. Still however, body image remains a definitive factor in a person’s level of self worth in the eyes of many. Until something is done to prevent advertisers and magazines from publishing altered photos, false information in the form of altered photos will continue to be prevalant in American media.

Works Cited

  1. Navamanikkam, Melanie. “Truth in Advertisng: Should America Ban Photoshop?” University of Cincinatti Law Review. 21st June, 2017. Retrieved from:

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