Women's body confidence at 'critical level' worldwide, Dove global study indicates

Body image concerns are filtering into the workplace, and impacting how women conduct themselves. Photo / istock
Body image concerns are filtering into the workplace, and impacting how women conduct themselves. Photo / istock

It's perhaps the scariest statistic you will read today.

Women hate their body more than ever before, with image issues reaching a "critical level" on a global scale.

According to a new report commissioned by Dove, a staggering 89 per cent of Australian women are opting to cancel plans, job interviews or other important engagements simply because of how they look.

More than 10,500 women and girls were questioned as part of The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, which took answers from candidates aged between 10 and 60 and from 13 countries around the world. Their responses made up the statistics that formed the largest study the brand has ever commissioned.

The data revealed that on a global level, Australia is on par with the UK in terms of body confidence ratings in the world - with just 20 per cent admitting to having high self esteem.

The worst placegetter was Japan, with just eight per cent of women liking the way they looked.

The report suggests that the obsession with body image is having a serious impact on how women conduct themselves in the workplace- with just five in 10 sticking to their opinions or decisions based on how they look that day.

"This new cross-cultural research highlights the reality that low body-esteem prevents many women from fully engaging in life," says Dr Susan Paxton, who was involved with the research. "Women are under many pressures to conform to beauty ideals, and the report shows that social media is presenting a new challenge and adding pressure to look a certain way. The findings are certainly a call for action."

As part of the study, women cited growing pressure from the media and other related sources as contributing to the problem, with 77 per cent of Australians blaming "unrealistic standards" set by media and advertising as one of the biggest problems.

Despite higher awareness of the pressures imposed by media, social media and advertising, one out of every two Australian women report they feel worse about themselves after looking at images of attractive women in magazines.

"This latest research shows that low body confidence is a global issue," Dr Nancy Etcoff, Assistant Clinical Professor Harvard Medical School said.

"Though troubling, these results are also unsurprising, given the increasing pressures women and girls face today. We need to help empower women and girls in many ways, including increasing body-confidence education, driving meaningful conversations around the pressures women and girls face, and advocating for change in how females and their appearance are talked about and portrayed in the media."

Of the other countries to take part in the study, South Africa came out as the least body conscious country - with more than 64 per cent of women saying they have high-body esteem.

Russia, Turkey and India all fell within the 40 per cent ballpark, while China, Mexico and Germany had around a third of participants accepting their bodies.

The US came in behind Australia - with 24 per cent having high body-esteem.

Despite the alarming statistics, there is a push by women to break the concept of beauty norms.

More than 70 per cent of women want the media to portray a more diverse range of physical appearance, age, race, shape and size in advertising and marketing.

"With this new research, we hope to inspire women and girls everywhere to develop a positive relationship with the way they look," Tessa Black, Brand Manager, Unilever Australia and New Zealand said.

- news.com.au

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