Women have become less dissatisfied with their body weight over the past three decades, according to a new study-of-studies presented Friday at the American Psychological Association convention. Researchers reviewed more than 250 weight-perception studies conducted between 1981 and 2012, including responses from more than 100,000 participants. They found that, with the exception of a rise in weight-related body dissatisfaction in the early 1990s, women have gotten happier about their weight since the early ’80s.
On average, women feel more dissatisfied with their body weight than men, but the authors of this new study found that men’s weight-related self-confidence has stayed pretty much the same as women’s has risen. The studies had participants rate their body-weight dissatisfaction on a scale; the average response decreased half a standard deviation—3.3 points—during the 30 years under review. Bryan Karazsia, the College of Wooster professor who co-authored the study, told the Huffington Post that the change is as significant as a 50-point bump on the SAT.
Karazsia shared a couple of theories about his study’s results with Time. People in the U.S. are getting heavier, on average—a significant majority are now considered overweight or obese in medical terms— making larger bodies the norm. In recent years, slowly but surely, mainstream media has also included more depictions of women without rail-thin, modelesque frames.
It’s also possible that the popular concept of an ideal body type has shifted. Today, in the era of fitspiration Tumblrs and #ladieswholift, Karazsia says, it seems that muscle tone and definition are joining thinness as the ultimate appearance goal. Karazsia and his team also looked at 81 studies of 23,800 people’s muscle-related body dissatisfaction over 14 years. They found that, unsurprisingly, men were more dissatisfied with their muscles than women were. This dissatisfaction remained constant over the years among people of both genders. Little boys taking muscle-enhancing supplements need as many varied examples of beautiful bodies as girls do. We’ll have to wait for the next round of studies to analyze the Dad Bod effect.