The majority of body image research has focussed primarily on young adult women, a group within which appearance dissatisfaction has been repeatedly reported. These appearance worries have been found to adversely predict psychological and physical health outcomes, including unhealthy weight control behaviours, low levels of exercise, substance misuse and depression (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2006). Recently however, greater attention has been given to women in midlife: commonly defined as the period between 35 and 55 years of age (Hockey & James, 2003). Similarly, appearance concerns have been identified amongst many women in midlife and older adulthood (Pruis & Janowsky, 2010; Tiggemann, 2004). Studies have found both that women aged 54 reported more dissatisfaction with their bodies compared with retrospective reports of their 20s, 30s, and 40s (McLaren & Kuh, 2004) and that levels of body dissatisfaction were similar in a middle-aged group (50-65 years) and group of women of 66 years and older (Lewis & Cachelin, 2001).
This article reviews research exploring the body image of women in midlife, a group who have been previously overlooked within this research area.