Comparison of the perception of ideal body images of Ghanaian men and women
Obesity is now a worldwide public health problem. The prevalence of obesity and obesity-linked illnesses continues to increase in regions of the developing world that were previously unaffected by such conditions. Reasons for this increase include changes in diet, occupations, activity and cultural norms. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that Ghanaian men preferred Ghanaian women to be of the larger, traditional body size. Ghanaian men and women were selected at random to complete a survey and to select a body image that best represented their current body image (CBI), and an ideal body image (IBI) for men and women. The results showed that 69.7% of men selected the IBI for women to be in the normal BMI range while only 44.7% felt that women preferred to be in the normal body mass index BMI category. In comparison, 56.5% of women selected the IBI for women in the normal BMI range and 48.4% stated that they believed men preferred a woman in the normal BMI range. An additional 33.9% of women reported that they felt men preferred a women's figure in the underweight range. The difference in men's selection and their perception of a women's selection of the IBI for a woman was significant (p=0.05). Men were significantly more likely to be satisfied with their current body image (CBI) than women (43.9% vs. 22.6%, respectively, OR 1.12 [1.03-1.20], p=0.003). Women were significantly more likely to change their CBI to improve their health (OR 2.97 [1.31 – 6.71], p=0.009). It is concluded that the majority of men and women in this cohort prefer women to be of a normal BMI but the perceptions of the preference of the opposite gender are significantly different. This information now allows us to proceed with an educational and medical program aimed to reduce obesity and the consequences of obesity-linked illnesses in this population.
African Journal of Health Sciences Vol. 14 (1-2) 2007: pp. 54-60