Vitality

Self-Esteem, Positive Body Image Reaches All-Time High In America, New Study Finds

Flip through any tabloid magazine and you'll see evidence we live in the age of plastic surgery, however, a new study has found that women today appear to be more accepting of their body and weight than in decades before, despite constant pressure to be thin and perfect.

From 1981 to 2012 American women’s dissatisfaction with their weight gradually declined over time, while men’s dissatisfaction remained relatively constant. In addition, men regularly reported more dissatisfaction than women when it came to muscularity, but over time, levels of satisfaction with muscularity remained relatively consistent for both men and women. What is most surprising about this news is how body dissatisfaction decreased, despite Americans being the heaviest they have ever been.

Self-esteem Women in America are finally feeling good with their body sizes. Photo courtesy of Pexels

"When we consider that humans in the United States, where most studies in our review were conducted, are physically larger than they have ever been, with more than two-thirds of U.S. adults being overweight or obese, one might expect that body dissatisfaction should be increasing,” explained study author Dr. Bryan Karazsia from the College of Wooster in a recent statement. “But we found the opposite."

These results are based on the meta-analysis of more than 250 studies representing 100,228 participants from 1981 to 2012, to analyze trends in how people felt about their bodies, specifically in regard to weight.

Karazsia explained that he is “casually optimistic” that the findings represent a positive change in the social pressures that women face toward more body acceptance and body diversity. This is positive seeing as body dissatisfaction is not only a common predictor of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and binge eating, but also can play a role in the development of depression.

"The last two decades have witnessed increasing attention and awareness on a body acceptance movement aimed primarily at girls and women," said Karazsia in a recent statement. The results of this study may reflect this positive societal change.

According to Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers, it's estimated that between 10-15 percent of all Americans suffer from some type of serious eating disorder. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood, and although they affect both genders, the National Institute of Mental Health report they are about 2.5 times more common in females.

Source:Karazsia B. Is Body Dissatisfaction Changing Across Time? A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis.American Psychological Association’s 124th Annual Convention. 2016

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