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The naked truth – life drawing boosts body image

Published: 7 December 2015 at 12:57

Woman painting

New research by Anglia Ruskin Professor shows benefits of attending art classes

New research shows that attending life drawing classes has a positive effect on body image, particularly for women.

Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, carried out two separate studies which will be published by the journal Psychiatry Research.

The first study, conducted between January and May 2015, involved 138 men and women, aged between 18 and 76, who regularly attended life drawing classes.

The participants estimated how many sessions they had attended in their lifetime and completed various assessments to measure negative and positive body image. 

Amongst women, greater attendance was significantly associated with higher body appreciation and a lower drive for thinness and social physique anxiety.  For men, greater attendance was significantly associated with higher body appreciation.

Because of the possibility the classes might attract individuals who already possessed positive body image, the second study involved 37 women taking part in a life drawing session for the first time.

The women completed questionnaires before and after the session, which featured a female model, and Professor Swami found that both body image satisfaction and appearance satisfaction increased.

Measured using six items with a 1-9 scale, average body image satisfaction scores increased from 4.24 to 5.32, while appearance satisfaction, measured on a 1-100 scale, increased from an average of 45.1 before the session to 57.6.

Professor Swami, of Anglia Ruskin’s Psychology department, said:

“These studies indicate that life drawing classes may promote an embodying experience that leads to a healthier body image amongst participants. 

“Life drawing sessions may also provide spaces for people to explore relationships with their own bodies and critically appraise media depictions of ‘idealised’ bodies. 

“However, the findings of the first study suggest that these effects are stronger in women.  This could be because life drawing is viewed as a ‘feminine’ activity, or it could be because male attendees are more likely to encounter female rather male life models.

“If the results of these studies can be replicated and extended, life drawing may emerge as an effective means of promoting healthier body image across the population.”