CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — Being comfortable in one’s own skin is often easier said than done, but researchers from Anglia Ruskin University highlight just how important accepting ourselves can be on that long road toward happiness and contentment in life. Scientists report a more positive body image displays a strong association with both better psychological well-being and more life satisfaction.
These findings come from one of the largest studies ever focusing on the topic of body image. Researchers included a total of 56,968 people living in 65 nations. More specifically, researchers focused on body appreciation, defined as “accepting, holding favorable opinions toward, and respecting the body, while also rejecting media-promoted appearance ideals as the only form of human beauty.”
Prior projects have indicated that high levels of body appreciation tend to link up with a number of positive well-being traits like self-esteem and healthy eating habits. Similarly, a positive body image usually lowers one’s risk of issues such as depression and anxiety. Despite all that, very few studies have analyzed and investigated body appreciation across nations.
A consortium of scientists led by the team at ARU asked participants in all 65 nations to fill out the Body Appreciation Scale-2 (BAS-2), which features 10 items, including “I respect my body” and “I appreciate the different and unique characteristics of my body.”
This led to the finding that across nations, greater body appreciation is indeed significantly associated with higher psychological well-being, as assessed using a measure of life satisfaction. Study authors also report body appreciation was higher among single people (in comparison to being married or in a committed relationship) and those living in rural areas.
Of course, dramatic differences in body appreciation scores were noted among all nations in the study. The lowest scores were seen in Australia, followed by India and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Malta scored the highest.
“This is one of the largest studies on body image ever carried out, brought about by a collaborative research effort involving over 250 scientists across the world. Our finding that greater body appreciation is associated with better psychological wellbeing highlights the importance of developing ways to promote more positive body image globally,” says Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and lead author of the study, in a media release.
“Also, people who live in urban areas may feel stronger pressure to conform to body ideals promoted by Western society, and it is also notable that people from countries considered culturally different to the United States appeared to have broadly greater body appreciation. People in rural areas may also benefit from being in nature, which past research has also shown to be linked with positive body image,” Swami concludes. “This research also highlights what can be achieved when scientists from across the world come together to achieve a common goal.”
The study is published in the journal Body Image.