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Covid-19 anxiety is causing body image issues, according to this British study

Published on:23 October 2020, 19:15pm IST
Covid-19 anxiety is real and apparently it is causing major body image issues in both men and women, according to this study.
Team Health Shots
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Covid-19’s impact on mental health is barely understood. Image courtesy: Unsplash

By now we know that covid-19 doesn’t just affect our physical health—but also our mental health. Covid anxiety exists and it might be causing body image issues, according to a recent research paper.

A study, led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, found that stress and anxiety stemming directly from covid-19 can very well lead to body image issues.

Body image issues were reported by both male and female participants of the study

Amongst women, the study found that feelings of anxiety and stress caused by covid-19 were associated with a greater desire for thinness. It also found that anxiety was significantly associated with body dissatisfaction.

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Amongst the male participants, the study found that covid-19-related anxiety and stress were associated with a greater desire for muscularity, with anxiety also associated with body fat dissatisfaction.

Negative body image is one of the main causes of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, and this new study adds to recent research indicating that fears around covid-19, and the consequences of the restrictions introduced to help tackle it, could be contributing to a number of serious mental health issues.

Lead author Viren Swami said: “Certainly during the initial spring lockdown period, our screen time increased, meaning that we were more likely to be exposed to thin or athletic ideals through the media, while decreased physical activity may have heightened negative thoughts about weight or shape. At the same time, it is possible that the additional anxiety and stress caused by covid-19 may have diminished the coping mechanisms we typically use to help manage negative thoughts.”

“Our study also found that when stressed or anxious, our pre-occupations tend to follow gender-typical lines. During the lockdown, women may have felt under greater pressure to conform to traditionally feminine roles and norms, and messaging about self-improvement may have led to women feeling dissatisfied with their bodies and having a greater desire for thinness,” he added.

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Here’s how you can inculcate a better body image

The media perhaps is the biggest contributor to body image issues. And now, with the advent of social media and a plethora of perfect-looking influencers, body-positivity is at an all-time low.

If you find yourself struggling with body image issues, then doing these five things can help:

1. Look at yourself in the mirror and point out the five things you like about yourself.
2. Surround yourself with positive people, who accept you for who you are
3. Avoid comparing yourself to other people
4. Treat yourself to a spa session or a nice facial
5. Exercise regularly for that much-needed boost of endorphins

Remember, your body is the only one you get. Treat it right and don’t compare it to what you see on your screen.

(With inputs from ANI)

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