A new study found that while women are becoming happier with their figures, men remain dissatisfied with their bodies

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated August 05, 2016 05:10 PM
Credit: Getty

Could body-positive role models like Ashley Graham and inspiring ad campaigns from Dove actually be making a difference in the self-esteem of American women?

It’s possible, according to a new study, which suggests that women are finally starting to feel confident in their bodies after years of being down on themselves.

Bryan Karazsia, PhD, a researcher from the College of Wooster, found that women’s average dissatisfaction with their bodies has dropped 3.3 points, based on survey data from over 100,000 men and women between 1981 and 2012.

It’s a seemingly small but “significant” change after women spent the 90s feeling increasingly unhappy with their bodies. , according to Karazsia, who presented his research at the American Psychological Association’s 124th Annual Convention Friday.

Karazsia has two possible theories for this shift. One is that it’s a result of the overall expansion of Americans’ waistlines. “Because people are larger, people are seeing what’s around them and feel more normal and less concerned,” he says, according to Time.

But there may be a more positive reason – Karazsia also says that advertisements featuring women of all body types could be the cause.

“You are seeing more images in the media of body diversity,” says Karazsia. “As those ideals are shifting, I think people are becoming a little more critical of the extreme images they see and the media is embracing [the idea] that bodies of all shapes and sizes can still sell products.”

However, men aren’t seeing any benefits. Unlike the women, men’s perception of their bodies has stayed stagnant, and they’re still more likely than women to feel dissatisfied with their muscles, or lack thereof.

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Karazsia thinks it may be because men still see extremely buff models and mannequins, and think of that as the ideal body they should be working to achieve.

“If you walk into a store and see men’s mannequins, they are really large,” he says. “Men just don’t look like that.”

Still, Karazsia hopes this is the start of a major shift in body image.

“I am optimistic that [this study] is good news,” Karazsia says. “I am a dad of young girls so when I saw these findings I thought it was hopeful.”