Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What’s the ugliest part of your body?

On February 24th TODAY described the results of their Ideal to Real Body Image Survey done with AOL. You can download their 17-page report here.

Page 3 of the report has detailed stacked bar charts showing how much time we spend each day on our appearance. Averages are summarized above with a plain bar chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). For the description they decided that larger numbers were appropriate, so they switched to hours per week, displayed on 12-hour circular clock-face charts, which easily can be confused with more common pie charts.

Then they decided they wanted a really Startling Headline, so they described things in terms of weeks per year, and found that adult women spend almost exactly two weeks per year on their appearance. It’s really  just 55 minutes per day, which is slightly less than an hour. But, going to an annual basis makes it seem huge. Of course, we also could make it even larger by multiplying by the number of adult women in the U.S. population, as I discussed back in September 2012 in a post about Is 540 million minutes per day a large number or a small number?      

Page 6 of the report has a table about our obsessions, with very different answers by women and men who were asked:

“Which parts of your body/appearance are you likely to worry or obsess over?”

I have displayed these results in a bar chart with the women’s 23 percentages shown in decreasing order.

For women the top five were:

1. Stomach (69%)
2. Skin (40%)
3. Thighs (36%)
4. Natural hair (32%)
5. A three-way tie between Butt, Cellulite, and Gray hair (all at 29%)

For men the top five were:

1. Stomach (52%)
2. Thinning hair (24%)
3. Skin (23%)
4. Gray hair (21%)
5. Facial hair (20%)

Both women (69%) and men (52%) worry most about their stomachs.  Note that thinning hair (24%) was ranked second by men, but only 17th by women (18%). 

The title for this post came from an old Frank Zappa song which had a different answer:

“...What’s the ugliest part of your body?
Some say your nose, some say your toes,
I think it’s your mind, your mind.”

The self-portrait by Zinaida Serebriakovа came from Wikimedia Commons.

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