We live in a world which is obsessed with body image. A recent study out of Chapman University, California investigated just how important people’s perception of their body image is to their overall life satisfaction.
The study involved 12,000 participants in a survey, with questions probing personality, self esteem, personal characteristics, television viewing habits and their beliefs about romantic relationships. The lead author of the study, Dr. David Frederick, Ph.D, identified the study’s main findings:
Our study shows that men’s and women’s feelings about their weight and appearance play a major role in how satisfied they are with their lives overall.
The study revealed that men and women have differing perceptions of their body image and its importance in their lives. Perhaps surprisingly, among men satisfaction with their physical appearance was more important than women as a predictor of overall life satisfaction. Only satisfaction with their financial situation rated higher among men.
For women, happiness with their financial situation and a stable and happy romantic life both rated above body image as predictors of satisfaction with life in general.
The study revealed that the majority of both men (76%) and women (80%) were less than ‘very satisfied’ with their looks. Commenting on this study finding, Dr. Frederick said,
“These findings are consistent with the emphasis placed on the importance of being slender for women and for appearing athletic and/or lean for men. It would seem therefore, that we still have a long way to go before we achieve the goal of Americans being truly happy with their bodies.”
The study found that people who were not happy with their physical appearance had a higher likelihood of being dissatisfied with their sex life and having a lower level of self-esteem. Interestingly, romantic attachment styles were also linked to body image. People who were unhappy with their body were more likely to have what the researchers described as an ‘anxious’ attachment style. This style is typified by a fear that their partner will leave them and this fear cycles back to the concern that they are not attractive enough to retain their partner.
The study also revealed that neuroticism, a personality trait typified by anxiety, moodiness, fear, envy, frustration, jealousy and loneliness, was also heightened among people with a low body image. These people spent more hours watching television and were more likely to have an anxious attachment style in a relationship.
In contrast to those with a low body image, people who were satisfied with their bodily appearance were more likely to display openness, be conscientious and display the traits of an extrovert. They were also more likely to have a secure attachment style and have a higher level of self esteem. These people also reported having more friends, a more fulfilling sex life and secure family relationships.
Being unhappy with how their body looks was shown to result in people spending more time in front the of the television. Body Mass Index (BMI) was seen to have a big impact on a person’s physical self-image.
In summing up the study findings, Dr. Chapman concluded:
These findings highlight the high prevalence of body dissatisfaction and the factors linked to dissatisfaction among U.S. adults.
Chapman University. “Body image strongly linked to overall life satisfaction.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160510143727.htm