Body Image Dissatisfaction and Self-Esteem: A Consumer-Centric Exploration and a Proposed Research Agenda

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article addresses the obesity epidemic, arguably one of the biggest health issues presently facing our society, by taking a critical look at the body image dissatisfaction and self-esteem literatures. The authors delve into three key areas, namely, the constructs themselves, the media effects on these constructs, and finally the relation of these constructs with a key solution, exercise. To address these three areas, three tables are presented to accompany descriptions of each construct which provide a vast and overarching review of the crossdisciplinary literature on the topics. The authors conclude by suggesting several potential research ideas, including a transformative positive psychology intervention which combines cognitive attitude-based framing (to increase body image satisfaction and self-esteem) with applied behavior analysis (to increase exercise frequency).

INTRODUCTION

The virtually unattainable thin body ideal which perpetuates low self-esteem (Martin and Gentry 1997; Grabe, Ward, and Hyde 2008) also brings about the incidence of body image dissatisfaction in girls as young as 5 years old (DeLeel et al. 2009). Magnifying the problem even further, low self-esteem and low body image satisfaction increase the rate of people who report eating and other behavioral disturbances (Furnham and Calnan 1998; Leeper Piquero et al. 2010). Thus, body image satisfaction and self-esteem continue to be the subject of research in several main disciplines, such as psychology and marketing, and ample sub-disciplines, such as clinical psychology, consumer behavior, women's issues, and abnormal behavior. Consequently, as with many topics which are of interest to various disciplines, a full understanding of the interactions and relationships requires a review of the body of research, an important pursuit.

The true importance of reviewing the non-proprietary literature on self-esteem, body image dissatisfaction, and exercise stems mainly from the interdisciplinary nature of these constructs. For example, the medical and health implications of low body image, in particular for adolescents, can become life threatening and lead to dangerous disorders such as bulimia. Hence, literature in the health and medical journals often addresses their correlations by collecting survey data. Psychology research attempts to further understand the causes of low levels of these constructs, and identify underlying theory for such. Marketing literature delves into the important relationship which media and advertising have with the development and formation of self-image, self-esteem, and so on. However, a broad overview of the existing research concerning the relationship between these three constructs and encompassing multiple disciplines of research does not exist. Accordingly, the authors seek to provide a panoramic view of research based on self-esteem, body image dissatisfaction, and exercise, one which can show the gaps and avenues for a proposed research agenda. Future research in each of these areas will benefit from this overview and the attempt to fill the research gaps. Marketers can also benefit from the literature review by: (1) developing a broader view of the published research and (2) augmenting the literature stream to include solutions-oriented research.

Over two-thirds of American adults are presently considered either overweight or obese, more than a 36% increase over the last 30 years (Martin, Veer, and Pervan 2007), and more than half of all women are dissatisfied with their overall body image and weight (Grabe and Hyde 2006). Although research shows that a large population of men are also dissatisfied with their body image, they tend to be more concerned with shape and muscular build than with weight (Furnham, Badmin, and Sneade 2002; Carleson-Jones and Crawford 2005) Furthermore, research continues to link low self-esteem with higher levels of body image dissatisfaction and vice versa (Venkat and Ogden 2002; Davison and McCabe 2006). …