The staggering economic and social costs of body dissatisfaction and weight-based and skin-shade discrimination in the United States.
This report was conceived through a collaboration of the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) and the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders: A Public Health Incubator (STRIPED). With this report, we take aim at racist and gendered societal appearance ideals, bringing much-needed scrutiny to a domain of inequity that for too long has been relegated to the periphery of economic and social inquiry, no doubt both a consequence and a cause of the comparatively small research literature investigating this domain. The report provides overwhelming evidence that body dissatisfaction and appearance-based discrimination, including weight- and skin-related discrimination, are a multi-billion-dollar public health crisis that costs people of all genders, but women and girls especially, their health, happiness, and sometimes their lives. Harmful beauty ideals cost the U.S. economy $305B due to body dissatisfaction and $501B due to appearance-based discrimination annually. The study was conducted by a diverse team of economists at Deloitte Access Economics in consultation with researchers from the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders: A Public Health Incubator (STRIPED) at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and an advisory panel of subject-matter experts.
Funding: This report was supported by the Dove Self-Esteem Project of Unilever PLC.
Expert Advisory Panel for this report: We offer a debt of gratitude to the members of the
Expert Advisory Panel for their extensive guidance on the preparation of this report:
- S. Bryn Austin, ScD, from STRIPED at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Phillippa C. Diedrichs, PhD, from the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England Bristol
- Kayla A. Greaves, Executive Beauty Editor at InStyle magazine
- Josiemer Mattei, PhD, at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Ayesha McAdams-Mahmoud ScD, MPH, is a social scientist and researcher at Salesforce
- Rebecca Puhl, PhD, is from the Rudd Center at the University of Connecticut
- Jaime Slaughter-Acey, PhD, is at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota
- Iyiola Solanke, PhD, is the Jacques Delors Chair of EU Law at Oxford University
- Kendrin Sonneville, ScD, RD, is from the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan
- Katrina Velasquez Esq, MA, is the Founder and Managing Principal of Center Road Solutions
- Davene R. Wright, PhD, is from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School
Thank you to community members: We are deeply indebted to the individuals who shared their personal stories with us on their struggles with body dissatisfaction and appearance-based discrimination, including: Candace B., William L., and Tyra S., whose stories are featured throughout the report, and Anitra R., Ashley G., Saad A., Grace M., Shirley K., and others, who also generously gave their time to be interviewed for this report. Their courage and resilience are an inspiration to all of us.