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Body image in relation to nutritional status in adults from the Basque Country, Spain

  • María Eugenia Ibáñez-Zamacona (a1), Alaitz Poveda (a2) and Esther Rebato (a1)


The aim of this research was to analyse variation in body image perception and satisfaction by age, sex and nutritional status in an adult sample from the Basque Country, Spain. A case-control study was performed for 227 women and 178 men aged 18–70 years. Stunkard’s silhouettes were used to evaluate Current Body Image (CBI) and Ideal Body Image (IBI), as well as dissatisfaction and inconsistency scores. Nutritional status was assessed following the WHO criteria for BMI in an adult population. The sample was divided into four groups based on sex and age (early adulthood <45 years, and middle/older adulthood ≥45 years). The Mann–Whitney U test was employed to evaluate sex and age differences, and the Gamma coefficient to assess the association between body image variables and nutritional status. Significant age differences in CBI (p<0.05) and sex differences in IBI (p<0.001) were detected. Both variables showed a positive association with BMI (p<0.01), which indicates that BMI is a biological characteristic related to body image satisfaction and influences participants’ perception of themselves. Dissatisfaction scores showed that both sex and age differences (p<0.05) were negatively associated with BMI (p<0.001). Only participants ≥45 years presented sex differences in inconsistency scores (p<0.05); this variable was associated with BMI in women (p<0.01). Preferences in body image showed sexual dimorphism, with women preferring thinner bodies than men – a pattern observed in many Western populations – linked in part to sociocultural pressures. Women were more dissatisfied with their bodies than men; a higher dissatisfaction was observed in older relative to younger participants. The results confirm the association between nutritional status and body size perception and satisfaction, but also the relationship between nutritional status and the reliability with which women can classify themselves; in men, this relationship was not as clear.


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