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Body issues for women and the psychological impact


Brown University defines “body image” as how one physically perceives him or herself, how this person thinks others define their body and the sense of connectedness a person feels with his or her physical being. Brown University researchers found 74.4 percent of women in the average weight range think about their appearance on a regular basis. Culture and society influence the importance of appearance, as do other surprising factors, creating pressure that could detrimentally affect mental health.

Researchers at Bradley Hospital, Butler Hospital and Brown Medical School found these kinds of attitudes are key contributors to depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Scientists found these results by supplying the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Questionnaire (BDDQ) to 208 patients in the adolescent inpatient unit of Bradley Hospital.

“We found that 6.7 percent of patients on the adolescent inpatient unit at Bradley Hospital met criteria for classic (non-weight-related) BDD, but that a much higher percentage (22.1 percent) exhibited distressing and impairing concerns with their weight and shape,” said study lead Jennifer Kittler, Ph.D.

The Social Issues Research Centre outline several ways culture rewards traditional attractiveness and the aforementioned mentally damaging baggage:

  • Favoritism in legal court – Attractive defendants are less likely to be found guilty in trials by jury. If the prosecution is attractive, they receive higher awards if financial damages are awarded.
  • Cuter children are perceived as more social – Karen K. Dion and Ellen Berscheid, in a study published for the American Sociological Association, concluded “unattractive children were relatively less popular than attractive children. Furthermore, unattractive children, particularly males, were more frequently nominated as exhibiting antisocial behaviors than were attractive children”.
  • “What is beautiful is good” – In a paper from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Erin Shinners surveyed 284 undergraduate students about how attributes of attractiveness, likability and trustworthiness played into evaluations of pictures featuring men and women of varying physical beauty. Attractive individuals indeed scored higher in trustworthiness compared to less good-looking people. Women were overall considered more trustworthy than men.
  • Attractive people make more money – Dario Maestripieri, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today, presents anecdotal evidence of more attractive people using more expensive services on airplanes, implying this demographic wins more high-paying jobs. Scientifically speaking, Dr. Maestripieri cites evidence showing “attractive people… earn 3 to 4 percent more than people with below average looks, which adds up to a significant amount of money over a lifetime”.

Sovereign Health Group of Arizona is ready to help patients struggling with body image and the depression, anxiety and suicide ideation that can plague a person. Call us today for the first step on the road to a better life.

Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer

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