Plus-size models have positive effect on women’s mental health

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The rise of plus-size models is having a positive effect on all kinds of women, research claims.

Models such as Ashley Graham, Robyn Lawley and Candice Huffine have made a splash in the fashion industry of late, with the curvy stars spreading powerful messages regarding inclusivity and body positivity.

Now, in a study led by Assistant Professor Russell Clayton of Florida State University, researchers have analysed how women respond, both psychologically and physiologically, to models of different sizes.

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They recruited 49 college-age women, all of whom indicated they wanted to be thinner, and showed them various images of thin, average and plus-size fashion models on a TV screen.

The project recorded participants’ psychophysiological responses — the interaction between the mind and the body — as the women viewed the images.

Accordingly, it was found that women are more likely to pay attention to and remember average and plus-size models in the media compared to thin models.

"When thin models were on screen, research participants made more comparisons, paid less attention and remembered less about the models. Participants also came away from the experiment with less body satisfaction, which can diminish psychological health," the researchers stated.

But when average and plus-size models were on screen, subjects made fewer comparisons, paid more attention and remembered more about those models. Participants also reported higher levels of body satisfaction.

Professor Clayton noted that the results of this study offer new evidence for improving women’s health and body positivity.

“Women made fewer social comparisons, felt increased body satisfaction, paid more attention to and remembered average and plus-size models. Therefore, it might be a useful persuasive strategy for media producers to employ plus-size models if the goal of the campaign is to capture attention while also promoting body positivity," he explained.

The full study has been published in journal Communication Monographs.

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