The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Uh Oh! New Study Says African American Women Think "Bigger is Better"


The way you view beauty, especially in yourself, depends on who you ask. According to recent research presented at the American Psychiatric Association's 2014 Annual Meeting, ethnicity plays an important role in what women determine looks best on women regarding body types, and African American women think that a little heavier body type is ideal.

What research shows

The study was done by Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Both African American and white women were included in the survey, and all were on equal footing socioeconomically. However, the responses between the two groups were quite different. While white women prefer a thinner body, black women preferred a heavier frame.

Participants were shown images of 12 famous female celebrities in various forms of dress and were asked whom they would prefer to look like in a bikini, shorts, and cocktail dress and to rate the attractiveness of each celebrity on a 7-point scale. In another question, study participants were shown show headless, colorless figures with a range of body sizes and were asked to select the heaviest figure that was still attractive and the thinnest figure that was still attractive.

The average rating for the heaviest and still attractive was the same for African American and white respondents (6.48), but the groups differed on rating the thinnest and still attractive. The average rating for white women was 3.28, and for African American women, it was 3.90 (P = .02).

Body image and eating disorders

Another interesting result of the survey was the difference between white and black women when it comes to eating habits. White women were far more likely to have eating disorders than black women. On the other hand, African Americans are far more likely to have health disorders such as hypertension, diabetes, and other obesity-related illnesses compared to whites.

Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder, but apparently it is also very much influenced by the beholder's cultural background.

Dr. Simone Lauderdale, who led the study, commented, "Psychiatrists, as well as general practitioners, should really be aware of the role culturally bound body and image ideals may play in a patient's eating behaviors, specifically, with African Americans having higher rates of binge eating disorders nationally as compared to other eating disorders."
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