The social environment that we are a part of and the popular culture surrounding us influences how we view our bodies, quite often. A range of mental health issues such as depression, eating disorders and so on, arise from poor “body image”, particularly in case of many young women.
In order to find out if letting women view their own bodies from a different, more abstract perspective can influence their own body image in a positive way; researchers at the University of Missouri used an optical scanner to whole-body image women between the ages of 18 and 25.
Women were then asked to digitally paint over the accurate 3D representations created by the team; using a Photoshop- like program. Different areas of the body that they tend to appreciate, whether for aesthetic, utilitarian, or other reasons were asked to be painted over.
One of the researchers from the team, Ramseyer Winter, explained in a press conference that by digitally painting their avatars women could think about how, for example, their thighs help them run or how their arms can help hold others in an embrace.
This helped the women to visualize their bodies in a different way, consequently making them realize that our bodies are much more than a size or a number on a scale.
On evaluation of the participants before, after and 3 months post the experiment, a decrease in signs of depression and anxiety was discovered by the team along with improvement in self- image.
Winter informed that though there is still room for more research to be done on the relationship between 3D image intervention that was used and its effect on mental health; it needs to be recognized that a significant effect on body appreciation was obtained.
The connection between body appreciation and depression and anxiety has been established with previous research. This has reinstated the fact that that the team is on the right path to develop an intervention than can better both body image and mental health.
Post this experiment, women with more severe cases of body- image induced depression will be asked to volunteer for tests.