Asking whether body image is related to quality of life is different than asking whether body image is related to mental health alone because quality of life has to do with a whole range of factors, some of which are directly related to physical health.
There are different ways to measure quality of life, but in this case the researchers used a questionnaire from the World Health Organization (WHO) that breaks quality of life into four main categories:
- Physical quality of life
- Psychological quality of life
- Social quality of life
- Environmental quality of life
To learn about how body image affects quality of life, the researchers had participants take WHO’s quality of life survey as well as a survey asking about body image.
When the data came in, it turned out that people with worse body image also tended to have significantly worse quality of life. Not only that, but body image appeared to have a damaging effect on every one of the four quality of life categories!
These results suggest that besides being a mental health issue, negative body image can harm physical health and overall quality of life.
The flip side, of course, is that improving body image may also improve quality of life. One way to cope with negative body image is exercise, which, as the authors point out, may improve body image even when it doesn’t result in any actual changes in body shape and size.
More research will have to be done to get specifics on the exact relationship between body image and quality of life. What this study hints at, though, is that a more positive body image may ultimately mean higher quality of life.