Wednesday, October 16, 2019 | ePaper

Is It Getting Better?

Body Image Differs for Men and Women

  • Print


Charlotte Markey, Ph.D :
In the age of social media and endless photoshopped images of beautiful people, is body image for the average person improving or getting worse?  Are people today more satisfied or dissatisfied with their bodies than they were decades ago?
A recent study published in Psychological Bulletin tried to answer these questions. They examined over 300 body image studies published over the last few decades, examining both men's and women's dissatisfaction with the size and shape of their bodies (i.e., thinness and muscularity).  
First, the good news:  Body dissatisfaction among girls and women appears to be decreasing! This change may be a result of societal changes.  For example, a growing body acceptance movement and the increasing number of fashion models challenging the thin ideal may be broadening girls' and women's ideas about beauty.
What about boys and men?  The findings are less clear.  The study found no positive (or negative) change in boys' and men's body dissatisfaction. Instead, their dissatisfaction had remained stable throughout the decades. As you'd expect, boys and men experienced less body dissatisfaction than girls and women.  However, they reported more concerns about their muscularity (or lack thereof) than girls and women.
In a study just published in the journal Body Image, researchers interviewed 31 young adults (16 men and 15 women) who went from having a negative body image earlier in life to now having a positive body image. How? Three things were identified as "turning points" in the young adults' lives.
First, they had changed how they thought about their bodies.  For example, they started to accept their bodies as they are and focused on non-appearance-related interests.
Second, they changed what they did with their bodies.  For example, they started activities that made them feel joy and connection with their bodies (e.g., sports, yoga, singing).
Finally, they had changed who they spent time with, by finding and surrounding themselves with people who accepted them as they are. Importantly, these changes were similar across genders - both men and women benefitted from them.
Taken together, we think that these studies present a hopeful picture.  Girls and women show improvements in body image across time, and science suggests ways for all of us to improve our positive feelings about our bodies.  It is our hope that future body image research will reveal how people can conceptualize their bodies as tools for interacting in meaningful ways with others in the world around them, more often than they think of them as mere objects for admiration.

(Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and director of the health sciences program at Rutgers University. This article was co-authored by Kristina Holmqvist Gattario.* She  is a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden).

More News For this Category

Mass Shootings, Guns and Suicide

Mass Shootings, Guns and Suicide

Brendan Kelly :Last August, at least 31 people died in the US following mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. In response, President Donald Trump announced that

The Positives of Dyslexia

The Positives of Dyslexia

Robert Chapman :Dyslexia is typically framed through a medical-deficit model. Take the following definition: "Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by

Skills for future success in business

Marcia Reynolds :Technology has changed how we communicate and will continue modifying what we call effective communication. Many of our connections will be virtual; the use of video platforms

Age-Gap Romance: Recipe for Stigma or Success?

Age-Gap Romance: Recipe for Stigma or Success?

Wendy L. Patrick :We have all seen them, or met them: couples that are obviously from two different generations. When we are introduced, the visual mismatch may leave us

Curing Cancer, Curing CancerPhobia

Curing Cancer, Curing CancerPhobia

David Ropeik :September is cancer awareness month for advocates promoting concern about leukemia and lymphoma, childhood, gynecological, ovarian, prostate and thyroid cancers. Those honourable advocates are driving home the

Working for a cause

Working for a cause

Katharine Brooks :From all the headlines these days, it seems like everyone has a cause-a significant area of passion, interest, or concern. And whether your concerns center on children,

Shield the heart before it attacks you

Shield the heart before it attacks you

Prof. Dr. Gobinda Chnadra Das :This year, the World Heart Day ihas been observed on Sept 29 in Bangladesh along with other parts of the world. The World Heart

Policy accountability on women, adolescent health

Policy accountability on women, adolescent health

Life Desk :Bangladesh has strong commitments on population and health goals and has made important progress in many fronts. Nevertheless, critical challenges loom including slowing in the decline of

Experiencing in a mountain setting

Experiencing in a mountain setting

Ned Morgan :Melanie Rudd grew up within sight of Mount Rainier in Washington State. Now an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Houston, she specializes in studies

The teenage brain : Risky or ready to learn?

The teenage brain : Risky or ready to learn?

Erin Walsh and David Walsh :This was not an infrequent refrain when I was a teenager. I am sure that some of my behavior (So. Much. Crying.) wasn't easy