Most Women Globally Are Dissatisfied with Their Breast Size

A new study identifies a worrisome trend.

Posted Feb 05, 2020

Alexandra Brewis
The international Breast Health Satisfaction Survey asked women in forty countries about their breast size preferences.
Source: Alexandra Brewis

As just reported in the journal Body Image, a new global study of women’s attitudes about their breasts suggests widespread dissatisfaction. Nearly half of all women surveyed said they wanted larger breasts; more than 20 percent said they wanted smaller breasts.

The Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS) bought together over 100 international experts to conduct surveys of 18,541 women in 40 countries, making it the largest study to date of women’s breast self-image. Using pictures, women indicated the size of their current breasts, and the size they would prefer them to be. The difference between the two was taken as a measure of their dissatisfaction.

Women who were dissatisfied with their breast size reported that they were less likely to practice breast self-examination and were less confident about detecting breast changes, both important self-care practices for early detection of breast cancer. This is concerning, as breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death among women worldwide.

Breast size dissatisfaction also appears linked to increased psychological distress. Study lead author Viren Swami, a professor at Anglia Ruskin University and Perdana University, explains the connection: "Our findings showed that women who were dissatisfied with the beast size were more likely to report lower self-esteem and happiness, with similar patterns evident in all nations that we surveyed. Taken together, the BSSS findings strongly suggest that breast size dissatisfaction is now a public health concern in many parts of the world. It has important consequences for the psychological and physical well-being of women."

Prior studies of body image across human societies conducted a generation or more ago showed that ideas about what is desirable and attractive varied greatly across societies, including many that preferred small breasts. These new study findings suggest a possible global trend of homogenization of ideas about breasts, particularly the idealization of larger ones. Other recent studies have shown the same trends toward greater body dissatisfaction with regard to overall body size, with women in many countries indicating they would like to be much thinner than they currently are. The new study also confirms that women who preferred a different breast size are also less satisfied with their body weight and overall appearance.

References

Swami, V., inter alia. 2020. The Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS): Breast size dissatisfaction and its antecedents and outcomes in women from 40 nations. Body Image https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1740144519303900