Women feeling more confident about their bodies, analysis suggests

Despite living amid a culture obsessed with selfies and Kim Kardashian’s weight, for the first time in recent history, more women report feeling confident about their bodies, a new research analysis suggests.

The report’s conclusions, presented recently at the American Psychological Association’s 124th Annual Convention, are in stark contrast to data gathered in the 1990s that suggested women at that time were becoming increasingly unhappy with their weight.

For the new research, authors from the College of Wooster conducted a meta-analysis of more than 250 studies, which involved reports from 100,228 participants between 1981 to 2012, to analyze shifts in their self-perception of body weight. According to a news release, Dr. Bryan Karazsia, an associate psychology professor at Wooster, and his team found that women were generally more dissatisfied with their bodies compared to men, but that their dissatisfaction declined over time. Men’s self-perception of their body weight, on the other hand, remained relatively consistent throughout.

With cultural pressures in mind, researchers conducted a similar meta-analysis to more closely examine men’s body satisfaction regarding muscle size, according to the release. They looked at 81 studies consisting of more than 23,000 participants over a 14-year span. Men regularly reported more dissatisfaction than women with regards to muscle size, but over time, levels were relatively the same for both sexes.

Neither age nor geographic region affected scores in either meta-analysis, study authors noted.

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Karazsia said in the release that the findings may be expected, but they were surprising in the sense that Americans are larger today than they’ve ever been historically.

“With more than two-thirds of U.S. adults being overweight or obese, one might expect that body dissatisfaction should be increasing. But we found the opposite," he said in the release.

Karazsia said he was “cautiously optimistic” that his team’s results signal a shift in women’s perception of themselves amid cultural messaging to fit a certain mold.

"The last two decades have witnessed increasing attention and awareness on a body acceptance movement aimed primarily at girls and women," Karazsia said in the release.