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Women's Body Concerns Rooted in Their Friends

Update Date: Nov 06, 2012 08:19 AM EST

Women are always chasing that perfect figure, thanks to the media's definition of "beauty". From being anorexic to undergoing several surgeries, women take extreme steps to look their best. On similar grounds, a new study suggests that what women think their friends feel about their body, influences their own body concerns.

The study, by Dr. Louise Wasylkiw and Molly Williamson from Mount Alison University in Canada, examines the role played by friends in the concerns that young women have about their bodies.

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The study shows that friends play a great role in how young women and girls feel about themselves, including their perception about their own body weight, shape and size.

The current study sheds light on how a woman thinks about her own body, being influenced by the concerns her friends have about their own bodies, and their actual body concerns.

For the research, scientists analyzed data of 75 pairs of female friends from a small undergraduate university in Eastern Canada.  The women were quizzed with questions such as how often they spoke to each other about weight loss, exercise, appearance and food/eating. Also, the researchers assessed if the women felt any pressure from their friends on weight issues.

The researchers found that the pressure that women felt to be thin was directly proportional to them having body image concerns, irrespective of their actual weight and shape.

Also, it was found that the talks between friends that focused around exercise gave rise to lower body dissatisfaction. The findings revealed that women perceived their friends' body checking behaviors to be similar to their own. Also, women's body concerns were a reflection of their perceptions of what their friends' body image concerns were. This suggests that perceptions of friends' bodies, and not friends' actual thoughts, predicted their own body concerns, Medical Xpress reported.

"Our research demonstrates that friends influence each other through at least three processes: perceived pressure to be thin; body-related talk; and perceptions. Although these perceptions are somewhat grounded in reality i.e. close to the truth, they are more influential than reality," the authors conclude.

The study is published online in Springer's journal Sex Roles.

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