Body Shame May Actually Be Making Women Sick, Study Suggests

Academic studies can be fascinating… and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background

With all of the pressure for women to look taut, thin and forever young, self-objectification is unfortunately par for the course these days. Now, researchers are starting to think that judging ourselves harshly isn’t just affecting our mental states — feeling body shame may actually cause us to become physically ill.

The thinking is that strict beauty ideals — which contribute to body shame — often make women feel bad about their bodily functions (like menstruation and sweating). This may cause women to be less responsive to those bodily functions, since they’re trying to conceal them, which could in turn compromise their health. To investigate, researchers from Bucknell University conducted two small studies.

The Setup

In the first study, the researchers had 177 undergraduate women answer a questionnaire, with statements like, “When I’m not the size I think I should be, I feel ashamed,” “I am confident that my body will let me know what is good for me” and “I often feel vulnerable to sickness.” Participants were asked to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with each statement. The researchers then used the answers to measure the subjects’ feelings of body shame, how responsive they were to their bodies and how well they evaluated their own health.

Then, the women reported how many infections they had experienced in the last five years — things like bronchitis, yeast infections and pneumonia — as well as how often they experienced physical illness symptoms, like nausea, headaches and diarrhea. Each woman also rated her own health on a scale of one to five.

But the researchers —> Read More