Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Women down on body image

But quite satisfied with relationships

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Winnipeg women are among the most satisfied in the country with their relationships but were utterly displeased with their body image, health and overall satisfaction with themselves, a new study has found.

An Ipsos Reid poll of more than 2,100 Canadian women found satisfaction with relationships among the female gender in the Manitoba capital trailed only their counterparts in Vancouver and Halifax.

John Wright, Toronto-based senior vice-president at Ipsos Reid, said the ability to create relationships is arguably the most important of the seven life-experience areas surveyed. (Winnipeg finished in the middle of the pack in terms of satisfaction with love life, the work you do and the city in which you live.)

"If you believe a relationship is what people are looking for, maybe the self-esteem will take care of itself the more relationships you have. Relationships can stand the test of time, body image can be fleeting," he said.

Winnipeg women finished last when asked about their satisfaction with their body image, their health and overall satisfaction with themselves. (Women in Toronto finished first in these categories.) Wright said women's negative self-assessments about their physical selves is troubling.

"Body image and health are things you want to feel good about. If a psychologist were looking at this (survey), they would say (Winnipeg women) have a self-esteem issue. Maybe when you value the relationship more and put more emphasis on it, you do so to the detriment of other areas," he said.

Dr. Jessica Cameron, professor of social and personal psychology at the University of Manitoba, said she was pleased to see Winnipeg women scored highly with relationships because they contribute to one's overall sense of well-being and mental health.

"In general, women do tend to base a fair amount of their satisfaction on their personal relationships," she said.

Cameron said it's no secret that many women in North America are unhappy with their appearance. The airbrushed images of often-surgically enhanced women that are promoted in the media can even cause females with normal body-mass indexes to express dissatisfaction with their bodies, she said.

"If the media changed the images it portrays, especially with women being underweight and with plastic surgery, I think you'd see a change with people's satisfaction with their bodies. Clearly, diet and exercise are part of that. Sometimes it's a perceptual thing of people learning to accept themselves and the things they can't change. A man who is five-foot-five is never going to be six feet tall," she said.

Wright was more than willing to concede that the responses from Winnipeg could have been considerably more positive had the questions been posed in May or July.

"Maybe Winnipeg women are more optimistic when the sun is shining and the temperature is warm for the barbecue and the beer," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2009 B2

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