NEW YORK – February 24, 2014 – A new national online survey by TODAY and AOL reveals that 67 percent of adult women worry about their appearance regularly – more often than finances, health, family/relationships or professional success. Men aren’t far behind either, with 53 percent regularly worrying about their appearance. Only finances – at 59 percent – rank higher among weekly worries for men.
The TODAY/AOL ‘Ideal to Real Body Image’ survey, which examines how Americans feel about the way they look and the powerful influence of social media on self-esteem, found that we are our own worst critics. While 60 percent of adult women have negative thoughts about their appearance at least once a week, it is even worse for teens girls, with 78 percent of those surveyed reporting having negative thoughts at least weekly. Women do not keep these negative thoughts to themselves, either. Whether they are engaging in “fat talk” or “old talk,” 77 percent of adult women and 80 percent of teen girls complained about their appearance to someone at least once in the past month.
To view the full results and methodology of the TODAY/AOL study, visit TODAY.com/LoveYourSelfie (http://www.today.com/health/stop-obsessing-women-waste-2-weeks-year-their-appearance-today-2D12104866) and AOL.com.
Results from the TODAY/AOL survey indicate that women’s worries over their appearances start almost the moment they wake. Adult women spend an average of 335 hours every year on their appearance, almost 100 more hours than men.
When asked at what age they felt best about their body, both men and women agreed on the golden age of 27. However, that does not mean our best days are behind us. While 80 percent of women under age 24 worry about their appearance regularly, that number drops steadily with age. Among the 55+ crowd, 52 percent worry about appearance regularly.
“We truly are our own worst critics. The average woman frets about at least six perceived flaws – from our stomachs to our skin– on a regular basis,” said NBC News’ Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. “But the good news is along with wrinkles comes the wisdom to accept them. Body image outlook improves with age – and we stop obsessing quite so much about the little things.”
The survey found that women were closely split on the effects of the “always on” nature of social media on their body image. Forty-one percent of adult women say that “seeing selfies and other flattering photos of myself online makes me feel more confident,” but 46 percent say “overall, social media makes me feel more self-conscious about my appearance.”
The paradox is even stronger for the generation that is growing up on social media. Sixty-five percent of teen girls say selfies and flattering online pictures make them feel confident, while 55 percent report feeling selfie-conscious.
Among the survey’s findings:
· The average woman worries about six body parts. The average man worries about three. But for both, stomachs are the No. 1 concern, with 69 percent of women worrying about their stomachs compared to 52 percent of men.
· 85 percent of teen girls (ages 16-17) say they worry about their appearance at least weekly. 56 percent of teen boys say the same.
· 73 percent of adults (82 percent of women and 63 percent of men) feel like they could always lose weight.
· Appearance worries hit moms doubly hard. 73 percent of moms regularly worry about their appearance, compared to 65 percent of women without children. Plus, 57 percent of moms worry about how their own body image impacts their children.
· 80 percent of teen girls compare themselves to celebrity images. Among those, nearly half are left feeling dissatisfied with their appearance. 56 percent of teen girls wish photo-shopping of models and celebrities would stop.
· 62 percent of millennials (those age 16-34) worry that people are judging their appearance. On the upside, we grow less worrisome with age: 51 percent of Gen Xers (ages 35 to 49) and 35 percent of Boomers (ages 50 to 68) share that worry.
The survey findings will help guide the discussion of TODAY’s “Love Your Selfie” series throughout the week. TODAY invites viewers to join the conversation and celebrate every shape, size, and age by sharing selfies on social media using #LoveYourSelfie.
The nationally representative scientific study of 2,059 US adults 18+ and 200 teens 16-17 was conducted online by Bellomy Research, Inc., Jan. 24-31. It has a margin of error of plus-minus 1.9 percentage points.
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