Many people view having bigger breasts as fitting the female beauty standard, but does having them make individuals happier with their bodies? A study published in Women’s Health suggests that women with larger breasts may be less satisfied with them and report lower well-being and less physical activity.
Beauty standards run rampant in our society, causing many women to be dissatisfied with what they see in the mirror. Negative body image is associated with adverse outcomes, such as worsened mental health. A unique aspect of women’s body image is breast satisfaction.
Lower breast satisfaction has been associated with a myriad of undesirable outcomes, including lessened well-being, negative body image, and decreased awareness of changes in their breasts, which has serious implications for health. This study sought to better understand the variables that underlie breast satisfaction, such as age, body mass index (BMI), and size, and potential outcomes, such as well-being and physical activity.
For their study, Isobel H. Oon and colleagues utilized 345 adult women between the ages of 18 and 83 years old to serve as their sample. Participants were recruited in Australia from a university, community centers, and health centers. Participants age, height, BMI, and breast volume were measured. Participants also completed self-report measures on breast satisfaction and physical activity participation.
For breast satisfaction, the participants used a scale from 1 to 4 to indicate their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with various aspects, such as how comfortably their bras fit, the shape of their breasts with and without a bra, the size of their breasts, how their breast size matches their body, and how their breasts look in clothes.
Results showed that larger breast size was associated with a higher likelihood of reporting dissatisfaction with breasts. Age and BMI were not significantly related to breast satisfaction, which is contrary to the researchers’ hypotheses, due to the changes breasts frequently undergo with aging or weight gain.
Greater breast satisfaction was related to increased quality of life, which is consistent with previous research. This relationship was moderated by BMI, such that people with lower BMIs reported greater quality of life. Breast satisfaction was linked to greater physical activity, but the effect decreased as BMI increased for this sample.
“While breast satisfaction and breast volume are known factors influencing physical activity behaviour, it is important to acknowledge the numerous other factors that were not measured in this study that further influence physical activity behaviour,” the researchers noted. “These include variables such as cultural factors, existing physical activity participation habits, personal control (decision-making regarding self and health situations), interpersonal support systems and smoking status.”
“Regardless, results of this study provide further evidence to inform insights into physical activity behaviour, for example, where a woman may find it challenging to engage in physical activity. This is likely further exacerbated due to low breast satisfaction combined with increased discomfort through poor bra fit or musculoskeletal pain, ultimately resulting in some women avoiding physical activity.”
This study took significant steps into better understanding how breast size and satisfaction can be associated with health and well-being. Despite this, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that breast size was measured by volume, rather than bra size. This was to eliminate the often inaccurate self-reporting of breast size, but it is worth noting that breast volume can differ greatly within bra sizes. Additionally, the outcome variables were measured using self-report, which is vulnerable to bias.
The study, “Women with larger breasts are less satisfied with their breasts: Implications for quality of life and physical activity participation“, was authored by Isobel H. Oon, Jocelyn K. Mara, Julie R. Steele, Deirdre E. McGhee, Vivienne Lewis, and Celeste E. Coltman.