Body image is the subjective perception of one’s own body. Both men and women can be concerned about their looks and it is not just what is visible in the mirror but it involves generalizations, assumptions, and memories. This is according to the nonprofit National Eating Disorder Association. Among the factors that influence body image in women is the size of their breasts. A new global study has even identified this worrisome trend that the majority of the women in the world today are not happy with their breast size.
Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS)
Authors Viren Swami from the Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Psychology and Sport Science and team conducted the Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS) among 18,541 women from 40 countries to determine the level of breast size dissatisfaction among them. This was, by far, the largest study of breast self-image among women. In the dataset, 47.5% of participants wanted their breasts to be larger than what they currently have while 23.2% wanted to have smaller breasts. There were only 29.3% of women who were satisfied with their current breast size.
The researchers used pictures so that participants can indicate the size of their current breasts and the size they prefer. The difference was then obtained to measure their dissatisfaction. The result of the global study showed that those who were dissatisfied with their breast size were less likely to conduct breast self-examination, an important self-care practice to detect breast cancer.
Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, published that breast cancer is one of the leading forms of cancers, claiming 611,625 lives in 2017. An estimated 17 million people were also diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year.
Breast Size Dissatisfaction: A Public Health Concern
Swami added that the women in their study who were dissatisfied with their breast size were more likely to have lower happiness and self-esteem scores. The same patterns were found in different nations that they surveyed. When the results of the BSSS were taken together, the findings revealed that breast size dissatisfaction is a public health concern because it has consequences on the physical and psychological well-being of women.
Neuroticism and Breast Size Dissatisfaction
The link between neuroticism and breast size dissatisfaction was also highlighted. Neuroticism is the tendency toward self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and other negative feelings. Women who score highly on neuroticism traits are more likely to experience emotional states and are more sensitive to appearance rejection and evaluation.
Breast Augmentation and Reduction: Statistics
Of all breast augmentations performed in the US in 2018, the percentage was higher among 18 to 34 years old at around 48.5%. Other age groups who undergo mammoplasty in the US are as follows: 17 and younger (0.2%), 35-50 (39.4%), 51-64 (10.6%), and 65 and older (1.3%). The survey was conducted by the German database company Statista. The most common reasons why women undergo breast augmentation are that they have small breasts, they want to have a fuller chest because of a recent weight loss, for breast asymmetry, to restore their youthful appearance, to improve their self-confidence and self-esteem, and because they have undergone a mastectomy to prevent breast cancer.
Statista also surveyed 1,010 respondents who were 18 years and older to know the attitudes of Americans regarding breast reduction. It showed that 23% of them were generally against breast reduction.
Approximately 80% of women and 34% of men in the US are dissatisfied with their bodies. More than 50% of people in the US are also not happy with their current weight and even 70% of women who have a normal weight still want to be thinner. This makes body image a problem in society because it can lead to eating disorders, social anxiety, and depression, according to Minnesota-based eating disorder treatment and care provider Melrose Center.
The treatment center added that more than 80% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and nearly 30% of kids 10 to 14 years old are already actively dieting, 46% said they go on a diet “very often” or “sometimes.” Countries with the highest share of population with an eating disorder in 2017 were Australia (0.94%), Spain (0.73%), Italy (0.63%), Belgium (0.60%), United States (0.51%), Argentina (0.40%), Chile (0.40%), France (0.57%), Germany (0.52%), Greenland (0.54%), and Norway (0.57%), added Our World in Data.
Michael Castleman M.A., the author of the book “Great Sex: The Man’s Guide to Whole-Body Sensuality,” shared that men do have different opinions or feelings about women’s breast size. He cited a study in New Zealand wherein researchers used eye-tracking technology to determine how men viewed women based on the size of their breasts. Although the majority of men gazed at women with medium to large breasts, some men were attracted to women with small breasts too.
Tips to Boost Body Image
Many people feel unhappy with some parts of their appearance, and it brings down their self-esteem. Children’s health and parenting platform Nemours KidsHealth shared some tips to boost body image.
- Accept your body image. Nobody’s perfect. Be less of a critic about your body and more of a friend. Tell yourself of things you like and make it a habit.
- Take care of your body. Get good sleep, eat healthy foods, be active, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Like your body. Focus on what your body can do such as when you swim, dance, run, or walk. You can also find things that you like about your looks, such as your smile, eyes, hair, or shape. Lastly, learn to tell when your body needs rest and food.
A negative body image does not develop in isolation. Friends, family, and culture convey negative and positive messages about our bodies. As people give a favorable view of underweight reality TV stars and professional models, who may have undergone radical cosmetic surgery to achieve their look, it creates pressure on the public to set unnatural targets for themselves. Instead of focusing on the negative, the solution is to overpower it with positive thoughts. Look at yourself in the mirror as a whole person and not just one part to feel good about yourself.