Women’s dissatisfaction with body image greater in more affluent neighbourhoods

The more affluent the area in which she lives, the more dissatisfied a woman is likely to be with her body image, indicates research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The researchers carried out a random telephone survey of 895 women aged 25 to 56. The women lived in 52 neighbourhoods in the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec in Canada. The survey was designed to cover differing social and income brackets. National census data were then used to track the overall affluence of each of the areas.

The findings showed that levels of dissatisfaction with body weight depended on how affluent an area a woman found herself living in, regardless of her own personal income.

Women of average weight, who lived in areas of above average affluence, were over 70 per cent as likely to be dissatisfied with their body image. But they were only 58 per cent as likely to feel this way if they lived in an area of average affluence. An overweight woman was 89 per cent as likely to be dissatisfied with her weight if she lived in an area of above average affluence, but only 71 per cent as likely to feel this way if she lived in an area of below average affluence.

The authors suggest that wealthier neighbourhoods magnify the values of the broader culture. People invest more in their appearance, and they have greater access to reminders of the need to be thin, such as glossy magazines, weight loss centres and fitness studios, as well as clothes shops catering to a young and slim body shape.

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