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A Mathematical Model of Depression in Young Women as a Function of the Pressure to be "Beautiful"

We develop a mathematical model based on the hypothesis that one of the most significant causes of major depressive disorder in young women is the pressure they are under from the media and their peers to attain a stereotypical model of "beauty". Empirical evidence supports the view that the U.S. media's archetype of beautiful women has adverse effects on their mood and self-esteem. The media's impact is moderated by individual differences in the level of internalization of the thin-figure archetype. Diminishing the role of the media is impractical. Hence our model focuses on identifying the means by which women become vulnerable to its effects. It is assumed that women enter the system in one of two classes -- a high vulnerability and a low vulnerability group. Once in the system, peer pressure will drive women's movement between these two groups. The impact of the flow between the two vulnerability groups, treatment and relapse are explored using a nonlinear system of four differential equations.

Article Number:
BU-1616-M

Year:
2002

Authors:
Jennifer L. Dillon, Mills College
Natalia Baeza, University of Alabama, Huntsville
Mary Cristina Ruales, University of Puerto Rico at Mayag├╝ez
Baojun Song, Cornell University

mathematical_model_of_depression_in_young_women_as_a_funciton_of_the_pressure_to_be_beautiful.pdf