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Cultural diversity and body image

23 January 20170 comments

Having an affinity with diverse cultures and being globally connected can improve a person’s body image and self esteem, new research has found.

Being ‘cosmopolitan’ in your outlook can give you better relationship with, and more positive appreciation of, your body, according to researcher Dr Hector Gonzalez-Jimenez.

He says that people can develop a cosmopolitan outlook quite easily, simply by travelling, interacting with a diverse set of people, learning new languages, experiencing foreign foods and embracing an open mindset.

Dr Hector Gonzalez-Jimenez

“Cosmopolitans are not confined to any specific region or national borders. Rather it is an individual predisposition that can be found among people across the globe that share a similar mind set,” said Dr Gonzalez-Jimenez, a lecturer in marketing at the University of York, in the UK.

“So, you may find people with very similar cosmopolitan outlooks in say New York and Berlin, Singapore, Shanghai or Sydney,” he said.

“Cosmopolitans are open minded, and have an affinity for cultural diversity. They tend to consume for the experience, rather than being confined by boundaries. Cosmopolitans are also keen to engage with what they perceive as “self-enhancing” activities to become a “better version” of themselves – such as learning new languages or skills,” Dr Gonzalez-Jimenez said.

He said previous research suggested that cosmopolitans are also very into physical fitness.

“This makes sense because cosmopolitans tend to view their bodies as a valuable commodity – as in, a fit body allows them to engage in an active lifestyle and a diverse set of experiences,” Dr Gonzales-Jimenez said.

“So it would seem that when it comes to body image, being comfortable and being able to express who you are has positive psychological benefits such as improved self-esteem,” he said.

“This of course, isn’t surprising given that scholars have described cosmopolitanism as a ‘social ideal’ for decades.

“What all of this underlines though, is the importance of a connected society. Because society as a whole is the sum of its individuals, and a society that encourages cosmopolitanism may not just be more world minded and open, but may also be healthier too.

“My research shows how the benefits of this type of global mindset can translate well beyond the everyday, and can actually influence who we are as people – and how we think about ourselves, and our bodies,” Dr Gonzales-Jimenez said.

His study of 184 females and 36 males investigated the relationships of an individual’s cosmopolitan orientation, body appreciation, self esteem and sought clothing functions.

The study showed that cosmopolitanism is positively associated with body appreciation and self esteem.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist