Skip to Content

Only 12 percent of older women are satisfied with their bodies


It's not surprising, but still unsettling: A recent study reveals that only 12 percent of women over the age of 50 are satisfied with their body size.

In an attempt to discover what these women do, know and feel that differs from women who don't love their bodies, researchers analyzed a sample of 1,789 women over the age of 50 from the Gender and Body Image (GABI) study.

Effort required

Respondents in the study answered a wide variety of questions about their history of dieting and weight control, body image concerns, eating disorder symptoms and quality of life. Results showed that only 12.2 percent of women said their body size was equal to their preferred size, which they gauged by looking at silhouettes.

Yet even this small percentage of women weren't impervious to body dissatisfaction about other areas of their personal appearance – especially those related to aging. Moreover, these women were found to work harder to maintain a sense of body satisfaction.

“Of course the fact that so few women are satisfied with their body size is concerning,” said Cristin Runfola, Ph.D., study author. “But we were interested in how some women remain happy with their size and shape, given ubiquitous social pressures to retain a youthful thin appearance, and the influence of a multibillion dollar anti-aging cosmetics industry.”

The inner critic

While women who were satisfied with their bodies tended to have lower body mass index, fewer eating disorder symptoms and a lower prevalence of dieting behaviors, 56.2 percent reported dissatisfaction with their stomachs, 53.8 percent had gripes about their face and 78.8 percent expressed complaints about their skin.

Appearance-altering behaviors, like cosmetic surgery, didn't seem to change body satisfaction.

One secret of body-satisfied women, the authors noted, might be exercise – women who were happy with their bodies tended to be more physically active.

“Our findings underscore the need for a multifaceted approach to studying and assessing body image in women as they mature, as their bodies undergo constant age-related change,” said Cynthia Bulik, corresponding author of the study and director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.

The study is published online in the Journal of Women & Aging.

Source: University of North Carolina School of Medicine