Covid-related stress, anxiety causing body image issues: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 23, 2020 Published on October 23, 2020

Covid-19 related stress and anxiety have caused numerous body image issues among men and women, a new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The research, led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), involved 506 UK adults with an average age of 34.

The study found that amongst women, the feelings of anxiety and stress caused by Covid-19 were associated with a greater desire for thinness. It also noted that anxiety was significantly associated with body dissatisfaction.

Amongst the male participants, the Covid-19-related anxiety and stress were associated with a greater desire for muscularity, with anxiety also associated with body fat dissatisfaction.

The researchers noted that negative body image is one of the main causes of eating disorders. This includes anorexia and bulimia.

Also read: Covid-19 survivors witnessing cognitive deficit, drop in IQ: Study

Lead author Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said in a statement: “In addition to the impact of the virus itself, our results suggest the pandemic could also be leading to a rise in body image issues. In some cases, these issues can have very serious repercussions, including triggering eating disorders.”

“Certainly, during the initial spring lockdown period, our screen time increased, meaning that we were more likely to be exposed to thin or athletic ideals through the media, while decreased physical activity may have heightened negative thoughts about weight or shape, the team wrote.

Greater lockdown pressure

The authors observed that during the lockdown, women may have felt under greater pressure to conform to traditionally feminine roles and norms. While messaging about self-improvement may have led to women feeling dissatisfied with their bodies and having a greater desire for thinness.

Also read: Aspirin can prevent cardiovascular complications in Covid cases: Study

The team concluded: “Similarly, our findings reflect the way in which stress and anxiety impact men’s relationships with their bodies, particularly in terms of masculine body ideals. Given that masculinity typically emphasizes the value of toughness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of status, Covid-19-related stress and anxiety may be leading men to place greater value on the importance of being muscular.”

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Published on October 23, 2020
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