Published on 9 December 2013
Research by a Psychology Honours student at the University of the Sunshine Coast has examined the effects of media images on women’s self-perception.
Darrelyn Adams, a mature-age student from Noosaville, this year surveyed 387 women aged between 35 and 55 via the internet for her Bachelor of Social Science Psychology (Honours) degree.
“The negative effects of media exposure on young women’s body image have been investigated and well documented since the 1970s but little is known about this relationship in middle-aged women,” Ms Adams said.
In the USC study, the women were shown images of fashion models of different ages and their self-perceptions were then analysed.
Ms Adams investigated the role of “ageing anxiety” in the participants’ body satisfaction levels and the extent they compared themselves to the models.
“The key finding was that ageing anxiety negatively affected participants’ body satisfaction,” she said.
“Middle-aged women with high ageing anxiety compared themselves more to the young models and reported lower body satisfaction after viewing them.”
Ms Adams said the results were interesting because young models would not typically be considered a comparison group for middle-aged women.
“By identifying ageing anxiety as a risk factor for body dissatisfaction in middle-aged women, treatments and interventions can be implemented that focus on decreasing this anxiety and encouraging acceptance of inevitable, age-related changes.”
Ms Adams, whose research was supervised by Lecturer in Psychology Dr Kate Mulgrew, won the Best Psychology Honours Poster award during USC’s Research Week earlier this year.
She hopes to study USC’s Master of Psychology (Clinical) program next year, with the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist practising on the Sunshine Coast.
“We would like to further this study by investigating whether the same patterns occur in younger and older women,” she said.
— Julie Schomberg