A study in contrasts: how the body beautiful varies across the globe

Posted: 08/05/2015


According to a recent Cosmoplitan article in honour of International Women’s Day, a typical British woman spends an average of £25,000 and 17 years on dieting to achieve a strong, lean figure (à la Cameron Diaz). However, beauty means different things in different countries. Here we provide a quick rundown. 

First we look at India. While in Britain fake tanning is a £100 million industry, in India women spend £312 million per year on skin-whitening products to achieve a paler complexion. 

Some 80% of women in the United States apparently dislike their appearance and many have surgery to change it. The ideal figure is a very lean one, often with a BMI lower than the recommended health range, a worrying trend just in itself. There has been a 45% increase in breast enlargement surgery since 2000 and Botox has become the most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure with around 5.7 million procedures being carried out each year. 

Turning to Asia, we note that more diet pills are consumed in China than any other country as Asian girls are vulnerable to body image issues and eating disorders in desperate attempts to be as petite as possible. 

However, by contrast, in the Caribbean big is beautiful! The Caribbean woman covets a ‘bootylicious’ figure, with a curvy bottom and hips. In fact some 40% of women in the Caribbean are overweight. A dangerous new trend has emerged as women seek mega curves – taking hormone pills originally developed to fatten chickens, despite their associated risk of developing breast cancer. 

Hurray though for Australia as finally there is a positive and healthy trend to convey. Physical activity is such a way of life that the emphasis is on an athletic body and what it can do, rather than on how it looks. It is reported that most Australian women say they would prefer to eat more healthily and exercise than have cosmetic surgery. A fit and healthy build with toned arms and bottom is the desired body shape. 

So briefly, what conclusions can be drawn? Certainly different cultures view ‘beauty’ differently, hence the differing trends emerging and attitudes towards cosmetic surgery. What must remain universal though, surely, is that beauty is only skin deep and very much in the eye of the beholder.


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