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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 23:22 GMT 00:22 UK
Poor body image plagues women
Women aim to have the perfect body
Media images influence women's perceptions of the perfect body
Women are up to 10 times more likely than men to be unhappy with their body image, research suggests.

This negative perception persists even when women are a healthy weight for their height, according to a new survey.

Researchers found the huge gender gap in body image is even seen among people from professional backgrounds.

Overall, female university employees were three times as likely, and female bank workers 10 times as likely as their male colleagues, to see themselves as overweight.

There is still an association that beautiful women are thin

Dr Carol Emslie, research scientist

Dr Carol Emslie, whose team at the University of Glasgow carried out the research, said "Images are still of very thin women as desirable body shapes. There is still an association that beautiful women are thin.

"For men there is still more of a range of images.

"Alongside all the bombarding of health messages of keeping your weight under control there must be an awareness that if we push this too much it could become a counterproductive message for women who are a desirable weight for their height."

Scientists at the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow compiled the report after speaking to 1,500 male and female supervisors and managers in a bank and 2,000 people in clerical, technical and academic posts at an unnamed British university.

Eating disorders link

Concerns about the way women perceive their bodies has risen in recent years as rates of eating disorders such as anorexia have soared, particularly among young women.

Around 90,000 people in the UK are thought to have an eating disorder of some sort, which is usually related to poor body image.

Models on the catwalk
Eating disorders more prevalent among women

Steve Bloomfield from the Eating Disorders Association (EDA) said: "Young women seem to be more affected by the way they look than men.

"It seems people's perceptions of themselves is that they don't look right or feel comfortable about their bodies and that's a terrible shame because it's that sort of thinking that can lead to developing an eating disorder."

The EDA is currently seeking funding to carry out a comprehensive survey of the extent of eating disorders.

The last nationwide survey completed in 1992, showed 60,000 people had an eating disorder and that 90% of these were women.

But that is thought to have increased by 30,000.

Another survey carried out recently by found just 1% of young women were "completely happy" with the shape of their body and that one in ten had taken drugs to try to achieve their ideal weight.

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See also:

12 Oct 00 | Health
Women 'obsessed by their bodies'
14 Jun 00 | Health
Survey reveals weight misery
19 Mar 99 | Health
Anorexia risk of moderate dieting
30 Apr 01 | Education
Schoolgirls 'suffer poor body image'
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