AFP – Loving your body was no mean feat before the advent of social media, but today, it seems to have become nearly impossible.
The stereotypes associated with appearance conveyed by all types of media are tenacious, and are now being displayed on the news feeds of the youngest generations, to the point of affecting their mental health.
From eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder to stress, anxiety and loss of self-esteem, the consequences for people’s well-being – regardless of age or country of origin – are numerous, as is suggested by several recent studies in the field.
The latest study, one of the most extensive on the subject of body image, reveals that self-acceptance – and especially a positive body image – is linked to greater life satisfaction and better mental health.
Led by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, a consortium of scientists asked 56,968 participants from 65 countries to fill out a body image questionnaire to determine the degree of self-esteem and self-acceptance of each individual.
“I respect my body” and “I appreciate the different and unique characteristics of my body” were among the statements that participants had to agree or disagree with.
This questionnaire enabled the scientists to score participants on a scale of body appreciation, which was then compared with the mental health of each participant.
Beyond body image, the scientists’ research also encompassed the idea of rejecting certain appearance-based stereotypes conveyed by the media. Published in the journal Body Image, the researchers’ findings show that, across all countries, a positive body image “is strongly associated with better psychological well-being and life satisfaction”.
In addition, the researchers observed that single people appreciated their bodies more than those who were married or in a relationship, as did people living in rural areas.
This research supports the findings of previous, smaller-scale studies, which revealed that positive body image was associated with improved self-esteem and healthy eating habits, and lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Finally, the scientists observed country-specific disparities in body appreciation scores.
Malta and Bangladesh are among the top three with the highest scores, while the UK, India and Australia are the worst performers.