Older women's body image: A lifecourse perspective

Toni Liechty, Careen M. Yarnal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Body-image research has focused on younger women and girls, and tended to ignore women in later life, although recent studies have called for more research into the body image of older women, particularly from a lifecourse perspective. The lifecourse perspective can address the complexity of body image by identifying personal and/or environmental factors that shape body image and the trajectories of body image across the lifecourse. Accordingly the purpose of the study reported in this paper was to explore older women's body image using a lifecourse perspective. We conducted individual interviews and follow-up focus groups with 13 women aged 60-69 years, all of them resident in a United States non-metropolitan county (its largest city having a population of 38,420) and having lived in the country for more than 30 years. The findings highlight the influence of inter-personal relationships (e.g. with a spouse or parent), the macro-environment (e.g. media or community attitudes) and key life events (e.g. physiological changes or educational experiences) that shaped body image at various life stages. In addition, the findings demonstrate that as women age, they de-prioritise appearance in favour of health or internal characteristics. Finally, the findings highlight the complexity of body image as a construct, which includes attitudes toward appearance, evaluations of health and physical ability, and assessments of appearance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1197-1218
Number of pages22
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • body image
  • lifecourse perspective
  • older women
  • qualitative methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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