The relationship between trait self-conscious body image concerns and health outcomes


Body image is a complex and multidimensional construct regarding self-attitudes towards one’s body. This construct is particularly important to one’s psychological status, as body image concerns have been linked to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety in a variety of populations. Recently, social self-preservation theory (SSPT) has been applied to enhance the understanding of body image and its impact on an individuals’ psychological state. SSPT proposes that threats to the social-self elicit self-conscious emotions (i.e., shame) and cortisol. Chronic shame and excess cortisol are associated with negative psychological consequences (e.g., depression, low self- esteem). SSPT has been extended to examine chronic feelings of self-consciousness and daily cortisol in the non-body image literature. However, body image studies applying SSPT have only investigated psychobiological responses to an acute social-evaluative threat and have not yet examined chronic body image concerns. Therefore, the present study examined how chronic body image concerns, which are self-conscious in nature, were associated with general health. It was hypothesized that chronic body image concerns would predict general health over and above daily stressors. Participants consisted of 91 females and 73 males who completed several measures assessing body-related thoughts and feelings. For women, the overall regression predicting general health was significant, F(7, 80) = 8.15, p < .001, Radj2 = .365. Undergraduate stress, social physique anxiety and sociocultural attitudes towards appearance (information subscale) were all significant predictors. For men, the overall regression predicting general health was also significant, F(7, 61) = 2.57, p < .05, Radj2 = .139. However, undergraduate stress was the only significant predictor. This research has important implications; by understanding the link between body image concerns and overall health, coping strategies for everyday body stress can be developed in order to improve one’s psychological well-being.