Age and Gender Differences in Body Attitudes: A Comparison of Young and Elderly Adults
The International Journal of Aging and Human Development
One hundred and thirty-two young adults (Mean = 19 years) and 142 elderly adults (Mean = 74 years) evaluated thirty-five different aspects of their own bodies. As hypothesized, elderly adults expressed less positive attitudes than young adults toward body items associated with body functioning (physical coordination, agility, sex drive, health). These differences are consistent with research indicating a progressive decline in bodily function efficiency with advancing age (Christofalo, 1988; Lakatta, 1990). Also as expected, the elderly held less positive attitudes toward body aspects associated with facial attractiveness (lips, appearance of eyes, cheek/cheekbones). These differences are in line with the structural changes that occur in the face as people age, moving them further from cultural beauty standards. One area where these age differences were reversed was in women's attitudes toward weight-related body items: elderly women expressed greater satisfaction than young women toward their appetite, thighs, and weight. The cause of this age difference in women may be due to thinness being a more defining standard of attractiveness for young women, or it could be due to the fact that people typically lose weight after the age of fifty, thus making weight gain less of a concern for older women. Results further indicated that, although men have more positive body attitudes than women, this gender difference is not nearly as pronounced among the elderly.