Posts Tagged Body Image

Young Adults Value Appearance More Than Health


Young Adults Value Appearance More Than HealthFor many young adults, beauty really is little more than skin-deep and has little to do with health.

A new investigation by University of Missouri researchers studied how college-age women view their bodies, and how they feel about media messages aimed at women.

María Len-Ríos, Ph.D., an associate professor of strategic communication, and Suzanne Burgoyne, Ph.D., a professor of theater, used a focus group to develop an interactive play about body image.

The objective of the interactive play was to encourage frank discussions about conflicting societal messages regarding weight, values and healthful choices.

“During our focus group conversations, we learned that young people don’t think about nutrition when it comes to eating,” Len-Ríos said. “They think more about calorie-counting, which isn’t necessarily related to a balanced diet.”

The focus groups included college-age women, college-age men and mothers of college-age women, who discussed how body image is associated with engaging in restrictive diets, irregular sleep patterns and over-exercising.

“We receive so many conflicting media messages from news reports and advertising about how we should eat, how we should live and how we should look,” Len-Ríos said. “Some participants said they realize images of models are digitally enhanced, but it doesn’t necessarily keep them from wanting to achieve these unattainable figures—this is because they see how society rewards women for ‘looking good.’”

During the course of the investigation, researchers completed in-depth interviews with nutritional counselors who said lack of time and unhealthy food environments can keep college-age students from getting good nutrition.

“Eating well takes time, and, according to health professionals, college students are overscheduled and don’t have enough time to cook something properly or might not know how to prepare something healthful,” Len-Ríos said.

Based on the focus group conversations and interviews, Carlia Francis, an MU theater doctoral student and playwright, developed “Nutrition 101,” a play about women’s body images.

During performances, characters divulge their insecurities about their own bodies, disparage other women’s bodies and talk about nutrition choices. After a short, scripted performance, the actors remain in character, and audience members ask the characters questions.

“When you’re developing something for interactive theater, focus groups and in-depth interviews are great at getting at stories,” Len-Ríos said.

“Many of the stories used in the interactive play—like valuing people because of their appearance and not their personal qualities or abilities—came from individuals’ personal experiences.”

Burgoyne said the play helps facilitate dialogues about nutrition, media messages and self-awareness.

“Body image is a sensitive topic, and the play helps open discussions about how individuals view themselves and how media messages influence their self-images,” Burgoyne said.

“An easy way to improve individuals’ body images does not exist, but hopefully, the conversations that arise from the performances will help develop ways to counteract the images that the media promote.”

Source: University of Missouri

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PTSD Can Affect New Mothers


PTSD Affects One in Three New MothersNatural childbirth is a major cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to new research.

A Tel Aviv University researcher has discovered that approximately one-third of all postpartum women exhibit some symptoms of PTSD, and a smaller percentage develop full-blown PTSD following labor.

Of the women who developed symptoms, 80 percent opted for natural childbirth without pain relief, reported Professor Rael Strous of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

Other significant factors identified in the study include the woman’s body image, including discomfort about being in an undressed state for a relatively prolonged period of labor and undergoing elective Caesarean sections; fear during labor; and complications in not only this pregnancy, but in earlier ones as well.

Researchers interviewed 89 post-partum women between the ages of 20 and 40, first within five days after delivery and then again one month after delivery.

They discovered that of these women, 25.9 percent displayed symptoms of PTSD, 7.8 percent suffered from partial PTSD, and 3.4 percent exhibited symptoms of full-blown PTSD.

Symptoms included flashbacks of the labor, the avoidance of discussion of the event, physical reactions, such as heart palpitations during such discussions, and a reluctance to consider having another child.

According to Strous, one of the most influential factors was pain management during delivery. Of the women who experienced PTSD symptoms, 80 percent had gone through a natural childbirth, without any form of pain relief.

“The less pain relief there was, the higher the woman’s chances of developing post-partum PTSD,” he said. Of the women who did not develop any PTSD symptoms, only 48 percent experienced a natural childbirth, he added.

A full 80 percent of the PTSD group reported feeling discomfort with being unclothed, and 67 percent had previous pregnancies which they described as traumatic. Fear of the labor itself, both in terms of expected pain levels and danger to themselves and their children, was also influential.

The researchers also discovered that support during labor, in the form of a midwife or doula, had no impact when it came to avoiding PTSD symptoms. Other factors, such as socioeconomic and marital status, level of education, and religion, also had no effect.

Strous suggests doctors become familiar with the profile of women more disposed to suffer from PTSD symptoms, and be on the look-out for warning signs after labor. He also advocates additional research to develop better treatment plans and make more resources available for women.

There are some immediate steps medical professionals can take, Strous added, including better counseling about pain relief and making sure that patients’ bodies are properly covered during delivery.

“Dignity is a factor that should be taken into account,” he said. “It’s an issue of ethics and professionalism, and now we can see that it does have physical and psychological ramifications.”

The study was published in the Israel Medical Association Journal.

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Pregnant woman on bed photo by shutterstock.

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