Is body dissatisfaction changing across time? A cross-temporal meta-analysis

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It remains unclear whether body dissatisfaction, a widely recognized predictor of eating-related pathologies and depressive symptomatology, is consistent across cohorts and time. This question is important to investigate because dominant theories propose that sociocultural influences, which may fluctuate, play an important role in the development of body dissatisfaction. Previous efforts for tracking body dissatisfaction across cohorts and time are limited by relying on data from a single institution or using assessments that lack psychometric support across genders. In this study, we utilized cross-temporal meta-analyses to examine changes in 2 dimensions of body dissatisfaction: thinness-oriented dissatisfaction as assessed with the Eating DisorderInventory-Body Dissatisfaction subscale (data available across 31 years from 326 unique samples, n = 100,228 participants) and muscularity-oriented dissatisfaction as measured with the Drive for Muscularity Scale (data available across 14 years from 117 unique samples, n = 23,575 participants). Results revealed a significant interaction between year of study and gender in predicting thinness-oriented dissatisfaction: girls and women scored higher than boys and men consistently (ds = 0.51–1.17), although only girls’ and women’s scores decreased gradually across time (d = 0.49). Boys and men scored higher than girls and women on muscularity-oriented dissatisfaction (d = 1.72), with no significant changes across time. These patterns remained when controlling for age and geographic location. Overall, these findings highlight the importance of considering multiple dimensions of body dissatisfaction in research and offer evidence that sociocultural shifts in body acceptance and diversity may be countering thinness-related pressures for girls and women.


body dissatisfaction, Eating Disorder Inventory, Drive for Muscularity Scale, meta-analysis, gender

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