In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Body Image in Men and Women

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Defining Body Image in Adult Men and Women
  • Theories of Body Image Development and Functioning
  • Issues in Body Image Assessment: Invariance, Psychometrics, Critiques
  • Specific Measures of Body Image
  • Course of Body Image in Adulthood
  • Life Experiences and Body Image
  • Illness and Visible Difference
  • Body Image and Obesity
  • Outcomes

Psychology Body Image in Men and Women
Linda Smolak
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0018


What we believe and how we feel about our bodies affects multiple aspects of our psychological and physical well-being. Those of us who feel we are unattractive are more likely to buy products, ranging from diet drinks to make-up. The cost of these products is substantial; in 2008, Bloomberg Businessweek estimated that Americans spent $40 billion dollars annually on weight-loss products and programs. Some of these products and programs endanger health. Body dissatisfaction may also lead to cosmetic surgery. Other people may develop depression, eating disorders, and body dysmorphic disorders, all of which, again, endanger health. Poor body image may interfere with healthy exercise, seeking appropriate medical tests, or following appropriate treatment for illness. All of these risks, particularly eating disorders, have resulted in substantial interest in the development of body image, particularly negative body image. The possibility of developing positive body image that might contribute to wellness is now receiving more attention. This, along with prevention and treatment programs, hold the promise of improving body image and reducing its associated risks.

Reference Works

For a reader or researcher looking for a broad overview of body image, there are several reference sources. Cash 2012, a two-volume encyclopedia, offers a comprehensive compilation of brief articles reviewing virtually all aspects of body image. Cash and Smolak 2011 (cited under Defining Body Image in Adult Men and Women) is similar in format but less sweeping in its coverage. Grogan 2007 is a single-author review of many aspects of body image and is particularly strong on developmental and gender issues. The journal Body Image: An International Journal of Research is the best source for empirical work on the entire range of topics included in body image research.

  • Body Image: An International Journal of Research.

    This journal is the leading source for research concerning all aspects of body image. It publishes empirical articles in English. It is a multidisciplinary, international journal.

  • Cash, T. F., ed. 2012. Encyclopedia of body image and human appearance. 2 vols. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    This two-volume encyclopedia is a veritable resource book for body image. It contains over 100 brief chapters on every aspect of human body image from amputations to weight-loss programs. The contributors are from a variety of disciplines and represent international perspectives.

  • Grogan, S. 2007. Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women, and children. 2d ed. London: Routledge.

    The second edition of a widely respected review of body image development and functioning. The book includes a thorough consideration of gender issues. This edition includes discussions of body modification and positive body image and is a comprehensive resource.

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