It’s no secret that women’s breasts (and breast size) play an integral role in shaping how a woman sees overall physical self, which in turn, affects (positively or negatively) her self-image and self-esteem.
A new ground-breaking study answers the question: how do most women really feel about the size of their breasts? And the results of the study don’t paint a pretty picture, from the perspectives of body image and health.
Why was the study done?
Published in the journal Body Image, the Breast Size Satisfaction Survey is said to be the largest cross-cultural study to examine body image, ever. Led by researchers from Anglia Ruskin University, the study surveyed over 18 500 women in 40 countries. The average age of the women was 34.
The study aimed to assess, from a global perspective, how women feel about the size of their breasts and their ‘breasted experiences’.
“While the number of studies focused on breast size dissatisfaction has grown, an important limitation of this research is that it has primarily considered the experiences of women in North America and Western Europe, to the exclusion of women in other parts of the world,” the study says.
“This is notable because it should not be assumed that all populations will share similar experiences of their breasts or that findings from the Western, educated, industrialised, rich, and democratic societies will generalise to other settings.”
How do women feel about the size of their breasts?
The results of the study revealed that 47.5% of participants wanted bigger breasts, while 23.2% wanted smaller breasts. Only 29.3% of the participants were happy with their current breast size. Essentially, only 1/3 of women were satisfied with the current size of their breasts.
Besides breast size dissatisfaction, the participants were also surveyed on appearance and weight dissatisfaction, personality, media exposure, breast awareness, psychological wellbeing and socioeconomic status.
They found that breast size dissatisfaction was also associated with lower breast self-examination frequency, lower confidence in noticing a change in the breasts, higher appearance and weight dissatisfaction and lower happiness and self-esteem.
“Taken together, the present results suggest that breast size dissatisfaction may have substantive and detrimental links to both global body image and psychological wellbeing,” the study says.
The impact on overall health
While the psychological impact of this dissatisfaction is worrying, what might be even more concerning are the health implications that dissatisfaction with your breast size might come with.
“Breast cancer is the leading cause of female cancer-related deaths worldwide and poor survival rates are associated with poorer breast awareness,” lead researcher Prof. Viren Swami said in a statement.
“Breast size dissatisfaction may result in avoidance behaviours that reduce breast awareness, particularly if a woman’s breast trigger feelings of anxiety, shame or embarrassment.”
The study says that one conclusion they may draw from their findings is that breast size dissatisfaction represents a global public health issue and might require urgent intervention from the public health sector.
But, true to the old saying “the older you get, the less you care about what people think of you” – the study found that breast size dissatisfaction decreased with age.
“It is possible that older women experience less pressure to attain breast size ideals or that motherhood and breastfeeding encourages women to focus on the functional purposes of breasts rather than seeing them in purely aesthetic terms,” Prof. Swami said.
Considering these findings, the researchers are calling for interventions and therapeutic practices to help fight against women feeling dissatisfied by the sizes of their breasts.
“However, such interventions are likely to only be stopgaps in the absence of broader social and political initiatives that challenge patriarchal structures that tie women’s worth to their physical appearance.”