The stress and anxiety related with the global pandemic due to coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) may negatively shape body image perceptions among men and women. These findings, from an online survey, were published in Personality and Individual Differences.
Adults (N=506) residing in the United Kingdom were assessed by the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), List of Threatening Experiences Questionnaire (LTE-Q), Form Y-2 of the STAI, Body Dissatisfaction subscale (EDI-3-BD) for women, and the Male Body Attitude Scale (MBAS) for men.
The respondents were aged mean 34.25 (standard deviation [SD], 11.36) years, 50.4% were women, 88.5% were White, 89.1% were heterosexual, with an average self-reported body mass index of 26.35 (SD, 5.88) kg/m2.
Among women, body dissatisfaction was significantly correlated with body mass index (B, 0.06; SE, 0.01; b, 0.32; t, 5.75; P <.001), trait anxiety (B, 0.52; SE, 0.16; b, 0.29; t, 3.26; P =.001), and anxiety from COVID-19 (B, 0.09; SE, 0.04; b, 0.13; t, 2.07; P =.040).
Drive for thinness among women was significantly correlated with trait anxiety (B, 0.58; SE, 0.18; b, 0.29; t, 3.17; P =.002), stress from COVID-19 (B, 0.16; SE, 0.06; b, 0.17; t, 2.56; P =.011), age (B, -0.02; SE, 0.01; b, -0.14; t, -2.44; P =.016), and anxiety from COVID-19 (B, 0.12; SE, 0.05; b, 0.15; t, 2.31; P =.021).
Among men, body dissatisfaction was significantly correlated with body mass index (B, 0.08; SE, 0.01; b, 0.42; t, 7.51; P <.001) and anxiety from COVID-19 (B, 0.09; SE, 0.04; b, 0.14; t, 2.14; P =.033).
Dissatisfaction with body muscularity among men was significantly associated with more correlates, including age (B, -0.02; SE, 0.01; b, -0.21; t, -3.82; P <.001), body mass index (B, -0.02; SE, 0.01; b, -0.10; t, -1.82; P <.001), stress from COVID-19 (B, 0.19; SE, 0.05; b, 0.24; t, 3.56; P <.001), trait anxiety (B, 0.45; SE, 0.16; b, 0.23; t, 2.77; P =.006), and anxiety from COVID-19 (B, 0.09; SE, 0.04; b, 0.15; t, 2.40; P =.017).
A limitation of this study was that investigators were unable to relate survey responses with changes to behaviors due to lockdown. Alterations to eating patterns or sedentary behaviors may have led to weight gain which may be a contributing factor to body dissatisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These data indicated that the COVID-19 stressors may have significant consequences for the perception of body image among both men and women. These negative body image symptoms may be a prognostic factor for the onset or other pathologies.
Swami V, Horne G, and Furnham A. COVID-19-related stress and anxiety are associated with negative body image in adults from the United Kingdom. Pers Individ Dif. 2021;170:110426. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2020.110426