If you’ve been dealing with poor body image and hoped to sweep the problem under the rug, this might change your mind: Research has found that body image strongly affects happiness, and this effect reaches into nearly every area of your life.
A recent survey of 12,000 American adults in the journal Body Image found that body image was the third most important factor in women’s happiness, just below finances and romance. But it wasn’t just women who had appearance-related concerns: Men ranked how they felt about their bodies even higher—second only to their financial situations.
The fact that body image is so important to our happiness poses a problem, since only 20 percent of women said they’re highly satisfied with how they look, and only half are satisfied at all. Plus, researchers discovered that this dissatisfaction with our bodies diminishes our satisfaction in other areas of our lives, from our sex lives to our overall confidence. Those with poor body image are less extroverted and open to new experiences, as well as more anxious about their significant others leaving them.
Lead author David Frederick said in a press release that this relationship anxiety can create a self-perpetuating cycle: “People who are less confident in their appearance become more fearful that their partner will leave, which further fuels their worries about their appearance.”
Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where how we feel about our looks isn’t so closely tied to how we feel about everything else. But for now, it looks like that’s not realistic for many of us, and we’re better off embracing our physical selves than disliking what we see in the mirror.