An Australian study of more than 7,000 women has revealed that while some are happy with their careers, most are concerned about their physical appearance and feel they need to “re-claim” their bodies to feel confident.
The study, by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, examined women’s perceptions of their physical attractiveness, their confidence and their confidence in their health.
“The majority of women in our study are confident in their bodies,” said Dr Lisa Cawley from the institute.
Ms Cawry said the study was the first to look at the experiences of women who were “at home” and who were not at work.
“Most of them were very satisfied with their bodies and their health, but there were a lot of women out there who felt they were in a constant state of doubt about their bodies.”
Ms Cowley said women in their early 20s and 30s were also at higher risk of being anxious and depressed.
Women in their late 20s were at higher levels of anxiety and depression than their male counterparts, but the difference was not as pronounced as women in middle age.
More women than men had concerns about their appearance, and those women were also more likely to feel the need to re-claim their bodies.
However, Ms Cawy said the majority of those women who had anxiety or depression were not feeling physically threatened or anxious.
“The anxiety they were feeling was not really linked to a physical problem,” she said.
She said there was also a significant difference between the physical appearance of the women surveyed and the ones that did not.
“When they had to choose between their own bodies and being physically threatened, they tended to choose their own body,” she explained.
But, she added, “it’s not just the physical.”
“People who have been around women for a while are very aware of the ways in which women feel physically threatened.
So they don’t feel as uncomfortable about their own physical appearance.”
The study also found that women’s sense of physical safety was significantly higher than their perceptions of how attractive they were, and that those perceptions were lower than men’s.
Dr Cawray said it was important to be aware of this when women were seeking professional help.
“You need to take the time to ask yourself, ‘do you really need to change your appearance?’,” she said