New research from Dove on social pressure to be beautiful

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

New research from Dove on social pressure to be beautiful

Related tags Women Human physical appearance Dove

The Unilever personal care brand has released results from its third, and reportedly most comprehensive, study to date on body esteem among women and girls globally. Dove believes the data can be used to help women equate beauty with confidence rather than anxiety.

Dove believes that “low beauty confidence and appearance anxiety [is] a critical issue​,” according to the company press release about the new data. And the company found that “women around the world desire a new beauty definition.”

“This latest research shows that low body confidence is a global issue," ​says Dr. Nancy Etcoff, Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School, and the of the Program in Aesthetics and Wellbeing at the MGH Department of Psychiatry, who’s quoted in the Dove press materials.

"Though troubling, these results are also unsurprising, given the increasing pressures women and girls face today,” ​she notes. And Etcoff is adamant that “we need to help empower women and girls in many ways, including increasing body-confidence education, driving meaningful conversations around the pressures women and girls face, and advocating for change in how females and their appearance are talked about and portrayed in the media."

Some numbers

Dove interviewed 10,500 women and girls from 13 countries for its Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report. Of the respondents, a majority would like to see media messaging change: 71% of women and 67% of girls want the media to “to do a better job portraying women of diverse physical appearance, age, race, shape and size,” ​finds Dove.

The report shows that women and girls attribute anxiety about their appearance in large part to “increasing pressures from advertising and media to reach an unrealistic standard of beauty​” – 69% of women and 65% of girls.

Dove points to other statistics that the company sees as more promising. The press release describes the fact that 77% of women think it’s important to be themselves and not mimic others while 60% feel they must meet set beauty standards as “a unique tension.”

And even higher percentages of interviewees don’t want to adhere to someone else’s idea of beauty and think that all women are beautiful in some way.

Small world

This research project was indeed global in scope. Accordingly, Dove took care to note regional similarities and differences among the data.

It grouped the world’s beauty pressures under four headings: Traditionalists, Modernists, Dualists, and Ritualists.

Traditionalists are women in China, India, South Africa, and Turkey. Girls in these countries, according to Dove, are inclined to do as their mother did before them. And the company notes that body and beauty confidence tends to be high. “In India…96% of women report feeling confident in their beauty.”

Modernists live in the US, Canada, Germany, the UK, and Australia. The expectation to ‘have it all’ is quite high among these women, finds Dove. And self-assurance is low: “in the US…only 50% of women feel confident in their own beauty – falling from 85% in 2010.”

Dualists hail from Mexico, Brazil, and Russia. Women in these countries are balancing tradition and modern life, according to Dove. While Ritualists, who live in Japan, value their looks but aren’t under the pressure that women in other regions are.

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