A team of researchers has measured women's perceptions of how media impacts their body image.
The Chapman University study showed that many women reported feeling worse about their bodies when shown media images of bikini or fashion models, compared to those shown images of paintings or products.
Researchers questioned 1,426 women across two studies to share how they felt about their bodies after exposure to 10 fashion models, bikini models, paintings, or products.
Women reported the bikini/ fashion model images made them feel worse about the following, in order: Stomach, weight, waist, overall appearance, muscle tone, legs, thighs, buttocks, hips, arms and breasts. Only six percent of women reported feeling negative effects after viewing images of women in paintings or products.
Lead author David A. Frederick noted that their results showed that seeing slender and bikini-clad models had an immediate and direct impact on how women feel about their own bodies- and that impact was mostly negative.
"Our findings highlight the important role of media in shaping women's feelings about their bodies," Frederick added.
The current study contributed to the ongoing debate about how much media matters in determining how attractive someone feels. The participants provided researchers with statements describing how the images made them feel about their bodies. These include:
"The images made me feel worse about myself because the models' bodies were all so toned and beautiful. They were tall, skinny, had smooth skin, and had perfect breasts. Compared to them, I felt ugly and not attractive."
"They all look so fit and healthy. I look much worse in comparison. I feel worse because there is nothing that I could do to look like them."
Another significant result from the study indicated that women who viewed the bikini/ fashion model images showed more interest in dieting and exercising to lose weight. Nearly half said the images made them less interested in wearing a swimsuit in public.
The study is published in the journal Body Image.