Fiona Campbell: Predicting body dissatisfaction amongst young women.

Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of dissatisfaction with weight and shape amongst the 18-23 year old cohort group (divided into Underweight, Average and Overweight groups based on their reported BMIs) participating in the baseline survey of the The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health project. The second aim was to develop a profile of women dissatisfied with either weight or shape for women in the three BMI categories by assessing the relationship between dissatisfaction and the following variables: demographic information, perceptions of current weight and size, use of weight control methods, lifestyle behaviours and perceived health status variables.


Study sample: 13,716 non-dash pregnant Australian women aged 18-23 years who participated in the baseline survey of the The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health project in 1996.

Study design: Cross-sectional study with postal questionnaires.


Results: 40.2% of underweight women (BMI<20), 60.7% of average weight women (BMI 20-24.9), 82.1% of overweight women (BMI 25+), were dissatisfied with their weight and/or shape. Logistic regression modelling showed that for all three BMI groups, women who considered themselves overweight, women who wanted to lose weight and women who had used dieting methods in the past month, were most likely to be dissatisfied. These models showed that a greater likelihood of dissatisfaction was also associated with: higher Sum of Life Events Score (underweight and average weight women); a poorer mental health status score (overweight women); rural rather than urban location (average and overweight women); and being an ex-smoker rather than a non-smoker (underweight women). 


Conclusion: Body dissatisfaction is common among young Australian women within all BMI categories but is most prevalent among those with a BMI of 25+. Associations with dieting behaviour, cognitions relating to weight and mental health are apparent.