A new YouGov Big Study looks at the opinions, attitudes and preferences of Britons when it comes to ‘body image’
This is the first part of our multi-chapter study which aims to examine what Britons think about body image – from their general perceptions of physical appearance, to opinions about their own body, from body confidence and insecurities, to the way they look after their body, and finally the use of cosmetic surgery, make-up and tanning.
The study was conducted 5-10 February 2021 on a sample of 2,271 UK adults aged 16 and older.
We looked at what Britons think about the general perception of and importance given to body image in today’s society, as well as the impact of media and fashion companies. We also investigated how Britons feel about their bodies – about physical appearance and body confidence, sexual attractiveness, as well as what their personal preferences are when it comes to body hair.
The study has found that the overwhelming majority of Britons (89%) say physical appearance matters in today’s society. Six in ten (62%) think the media is promoting unattainable body image expectations for both genders, and eight in ten (80%) say the fashion industry has harmed perceptions about appearance. Half of Britons (51%) report feeling a great deal or somewhat pressured to have a certain body type, with women in their 20s and 30s feeling most pressured.
The study has been divided into the following sections:
Here are the top 14 things we found in this study:
- The vast majority of people in the UK – nine in ten (89%) – say that in today’s society physical appearance matters, either a great deal (46%) or somewhat (43%).
- Nine in ten (87%) think that those who are better looking are treated more favourably, and 16% say looks have a ‘great deal’ of impact on a person’s character.
- Seven out of ten Britons (69%) think physical beauty is subjective. Fewer than one in five (18%) think the opposite (i.e. that it is independent of feelings and personal opinions).
- Most Britons share the view that the media is promoting unattainable perceptions of body image for both men and women. More than eight in ten (83%) think this applies to women, and two-thirds (64%) say this goes for men.
- Just 5% think that fashion companies have had a positive impact on the perception of body image.
- Seven in ten (71%) Britons say women are under more pressure than men to have a certain type of physical appearance. A quarter (24%) think both men and women are under the same amount of pressure when it comes to body image. There is a big gap between the number of younger men (49%-54%) and younger women (72%-74%) who say that women are pressured to have a certain appearance.
- Half (51%) of Britons report feeling under pressure to have the perfect body. Women (61%) are significantly more likely than men (40%) to say this.
- Overall, three in ten Britons (31%) describe their body type as average. But another 31% say they are either overweight (20%), fat (6%) or obese (5%).
- In terms of preference when it comes to a person’s body, over half of British women (54%) prefer taller men while just 3% say they find shorter men more attractive. Just 10% of men say they prefer larger women, but 40% are more attracted to slimmer women.
- Six in ten (61%) Britons report that how secure they feel about their body has had an impact on their sexual relationships.
- Four in ten (42%) say they think about how their body looks during sex, while half (49%) say they don’t. A third (33%) don’t worry much or at all what their partner thinks about the way their body looks, and this goes more for men (39%) than women (29%).
- Overall, 29% of Britons say their opinions about their body do not impact their sexual relationships. This is more prevalent among men (37%) than women (21%).
- Most Britons think that women should remove hair from their upper lip (53%). The majority say that hairy armpits on women are unattractive (61% of women and 57% of men say this) and 59% think women should remove armpit hair.
- Britons (52%) prefer for a woman’s pubic area to be trimmed. This is also the most preferred (40%) option for men’s pubic hair.