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People with a positive body image are happier with their lives

In an era when body image seems to influence almost every facet of individual identity, new research has offered fresh insight into how positive perceptions of one’s body correlate with overall psychological wellbeing and life satisfaction.

The study was led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in England. People herald it as one of the largest investigations on the subject of body image to date.

Research team focused on body appreciation

Published in the esteemed journal Body Image, this behemoth of a study encompassed an impressive 56,968 participants spread across 65 nations, giving it a truly global purview. The central tenet of the research revolved around the concept of ‘body appreciation’.

For those unacquainted with the term, it refers to the embracing, valuing, and respecting of one’s body. Moreover, it emphasizes resisting media-promoted appearance ideals as the singular benchmark of human beauty.

Historical academic excursions into this subject have indicated a clear relationship between high body image appreciation and a spectrum of positive wellbeing markers. Think improved self-esteem and healthier eating habits.

On the flip side, studies have shown that low body image appreciation potentially accompanies several mental health issues. This includes depression and anxiety. Yet, a lacuna in research has been the paucity of studies that assess body appreciation across a global spectrum.

What the team learned about body image

Enter the team from ARU. Under their stewardship, a conglomerate of scientists spanning the globe handed out the Body Appreciation Scale-2 (BAS-2) questionnaire to participants. This tool, encompassing statements like ‘I respect my body’ and ‘I appreciate the different and unique characteristics of my body’, served as the metric for the study.

Their findings were illuminating. Across the myriad of participating nations, a discernible trend emerged. Those with higher body image appreciation were also those with a more pronounced sense of psychological wellbeing. Life satisfaction scores further underlined this observation.

Interestingly, individual demographics also played a role. Body appreciation scores tended to be higher in participants who were single. In addition, those nestled in rural settings also held their body image in higher regard.

Divergence found across nations

However, it wasn’t all uniform. Body appreciation sentiments diverged significantly across the surveyed nations. Australia found itself at the bottom of the appreciation ladder. India and the United Kingdom closely trailed them. In contrast, the island nation of Malta topped the list.

Viren Swami is Professor of Social Psychology at ARU and the driving force behind the study. He commented on the findings, “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.”

Swami also ventured a hypothesis for the urban-rural divide in body appreciation scores. He said, “People who live in urban areas may feel stronger pressure to conform to body ideals promoted by Western society. It’s also worth noting that nations culturally distinct from the United States manifested greater body appreciation.”

Professor Swami further alluded to past studies. He suggested that individuals in rural environs, enriched by nature, might naturally foster a more positive body image.

Capping off his remarks, Swami lauded the collaborative spirit. He said, “This research also highlights what can be achieved when scientists from across the world come together to achieve a common goal.”

His point is well taken. In a world increasingly torn by divisive forces, such collaborative endeavors serve as a heartening testament to the shared pursuits of humanity.

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