There’s a fascinating connection between our body image and overall happiness

How we feel about our bodies has a big impact on our happiness — but we didn’t realize just how big of an impact until recently. A new study published this month in the journal Body Image has found that the way we feel about our bodies is a major factor in how satisfied we are with our lives overall — but it’s different for men and women.

Researchers at Chapman University had over 12,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 fill out questionnaires on and back in 2014. The questionnaire asked participants how they felt about their weight and their appearance, as well as their satisfaction with their finances, sex lives, friendships, and their overall lives. It also examined various attachment styles that each person has with in their lives, meaning how secure they feel in their bond with loved ones.

What the researchers found is pretty shocking: a woman’s feelings about her body image is the third-strongest predictor of her overall happiness in life.

Satisfaction with a romantic partner and finances were the two most important predictors for overall life happiness in women, but concerns about a romantic partner were also pretty closely linked with body image as well.  As explains, “Women who indicated dissatisfaction with both their appearance and weight were more likely to suffer from anxiety over their relationship and be fearful that their partner would leave them.”

And what about men? A man’s feelings about his appearance is the second strongest predictor of his overall happiness, right behind satisfaction about his finances. Although our culture tends to strongly stereotype women as being the gender most concerned about our looks, this study seems to suggest that guys are just as concerned, if not more so.

These findings certainly don’t mean everyone who is periodically dissatisfied with her weight or appearance will be unhappy throughout life. Of course, our bodies fluctuate over the course of our lives and it’s important to remember that every life has its periods of ups and downs with finances and relationships, independent of what our bodies look like at the time. But this study is something interesting to think about when we consider the components of a satisfied life — and just another reason to be as body positive and self-accepting as we can.


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