Women today appear to be more accepting of their bodies in regard to weight than in the past, new research has found.
“While women consistently report being more dissatisfied with their bodies than men as far as thinness is concerned, that dissatisfaction has decreased over the 31-year period we studied,” said Bryan Karazsia from the College of Wooster in the US.
“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,”
Studies conducted in the 1990s suggested that the percentage of women who were unhappy with their weight was on the rise. For the new study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of more than 250 studies representing 100,228 participants from 1981 to 2012, to analyse trends on how people felt about their bodies, specifically in regard to weight.
They found that while women consistently were more dissatisfied than men, their dissatisfaction gradually declined over time, while men’s dissatisfaction remained relatively constant throughout.
Since men’s body image issues are not always about thinness and can often be related to musculature, researchers also conducted a similar meta-analysis, this time focusing on muscle size.
They analysed 81 studies representing more than 23,000 participants over a 14-year span. Researchers found that men regularly reported more body dissatisfaction than women when it came to muscularity but, over time, levels remained relatively consistent for both men and women.
According to Karazsia, the findings represent a positive change in the social pressures that women face toward more body acceptance and body diversity.
“The last two decades have witnessed increasing attention and awareness on a body acceptance movement aimed primarily at girls and women,” he said. “That, combined with increased media visibility of role models who run counter to the trend towards thinness, may, in part, help explain their findings,” he added.