*The following is excerpted from an online article from the Sydney Morning Herald.
A new study finds that stress makes adolescents feel worse about themselves in general and caused them to focus more on their body when evaluating themselves, which in turn made them feel less satisfied with their appearance.
Researchers from the Research School of Psychology at the Australian National University surveyed 300 female and male secondary students in Grades 7 to 10, and then followed them up 12 months later. Participants were asked about how stressful they had found a number of life domains, including peer, romantic and family relationships, schoolwork, the future and financial pressures, as well as how they felt about themselves and their appearance.
The results indicated that reporting higher initial levels of stress predicted greater levels of body dissatisfaction 12 months later. Interestingly, the reverse was not found to be the case in that initial body dissatisfaction did not lead to increases in stress over time.
When the researchers looked at how stress impacted on body dissatisfaction, they found that self-esteem and the importance of appearance were key. It was revealed that stress had a negative effect on self-esteem and also led to appearance having a greater role in self-evaluations, which in turn led to increases in body dissatisfaction.
The results contribute to an important and complex area of research, suggesting that influences on body image need not be focused specifically on appearance, and could relate to generalized difficulties such as stress, adjustment and coping. They highlight the need for programs that are designed to prevent body dissatisfaction to focus on helping young people develop a positive sense of self-worth, value themselves on multiple life domains (rather than mainly in terms of appearance), and provide skills to help them manage the inevitable upheavals and challenges of life.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald