Effects of State and Trait Body Shame on Health-Related Outcome Measures

Open Access
Lamont, Jean Marie
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 31, 1977
Committee Members:
  • Stephanie A Shields, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • body shame
  • health
Body shame, a self-conscious emotion resulting from the perceived failure to meet a cultural appearance ideal as well as the attribution of this failure to the core self, is a common experience for women in Western culture. Body shame has been linked to the development of psychological disorders such as depression by way of helplessness, but other features of the body shame experience may implicate this emotion in poor physical health outcomes as well. Literature linking body shame to detrimental health behaviors and diminished interoceptive awareness suggests that body shame creates a situation in which the appearance of the body becomes an individual’s central focus to the detriment of bodily well-being. However, this research does not establish a causal link between body shame and these health-related factors, nor is it a direct test of the relationship between body shame and the importance of one’s bodily well-being. The purpose of the proposed research is to test whether state and trait body shame contribute to decreases in self-reports of the importance of bodily well-being. Participants who were either high or low in trait body shame were randomly assigned to either an experimental condition in which body shame is induced or a control condition. Both state and trait levels of body shame were expected to affect participant self-ratings of health orientation as well as other health-related outcome variables. State level of body shame was unaffected by the experimental manipulation; however, main effects of trait level of body shame were revealed for many of the health-related outcome variables, indicating that participants high in trait body shame reported lower interoceptive awareness, more willingness to value appearance over physical health, and more willingness to avoid health care professionals than participants low in trait body shame. Implications for future research include amending the research protocol in order to be able to test causal effects of body shame on health-related factors, testing potential mediation of the relationship between trait body shame and poor health outcomes by health-related factors, and examining other mechanisms, such as cortisol evocation, by which body shame could contribute to poor health outcomes.