Worldwide study into breast size satisfaction

Project will examine link between satisfaction and self-examination in 46 countries.

A major study into women’s satisfaction with the size of their breasts has been launched by a psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University, with the aim of improving breast self-examination rates worldwide.

The Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS) is being led by Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin, and involves researchers and female volunteers in 46 different countries, making it one of the largest international psychology studies ever undertaken. The primary aim of the project is to map rates of breast size satisfaction across countries, to determine the extent to which breast size dissatisfaction, as a facet of negative body image, should be considered a global public health concern. The BSSS will examine potential relationships between breast size dissatisfaction, cancer awareness and breast self-examination, to better inform healthcare practitioners of these issues.

Other aims include exploring how personality traits and exposure to different forms of media, across different cultures, can affect breast size dissatisfaction. A recent study led by Professor Swami surveyed 384 British women and found that those who are dissatisfied with the size of their breasts (31% wanted smaller breasts and 44% wanted larger breasts) are less likely to carry out regular self-examinations to screen for breast cancer. The findings, published in the journal Body Image, also showed that women with greater breast size dissatisfaction are less confident about detecting a change in their breasts and are more likely to delay seeing their doctor if they did detect a change.

Professor Swami said:

“For women who are dissatisfied with their breast size, having to inspect their breasts may be experienced as a threat to their body image and so they may engage in avoidance behaviours. Breast size dissatisfaction may also activate negative self-conscious emotions, such as shame and embarrassment, that results in avoiding breast self-examination. Promoting greater breast size satisfaction may be a means of empowering women to incorporate breast self-examinations and breast awareness into their health practice. And promoting greater breast awareness may be a useful means of helping women view their breasts in more functional terms, rather than purely aesthetic terms. We hope our new research can help to kick off these conversations in different countries around the world.”

Professor Viren Swami’s areas of expertise include applied, social and health psychology.