United Kingdom

Fifth of British women say body confidence - or lack of it - is impacting their sex lives

A fifth of women claim that their body confidence – or lack of it – has a constant impact on their sex lives.

A similar proportion worry a 'great deal' about what partners thinks of their body, a body image study revealed yesterday.

Some 18 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men say how secure they feel about their body constantly affects their sexual relationships.

Women were more likely than men to feel pressure to look a certain way and worry about their partner's view of their body, with younger women particularly affected.

Some 18 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men say how secure they feel about their body constantly affects their sexual relationships (stock image)

Overall, 61 per cent of respondents said their feelings about their body affected sexual relationships, with one in seven adults (14 per cent) saying this was constant. 

A quarter said their sex lives were occasionally affected by these feelings.

YouGov surveyed 2,271 UK respondents aged 16 and over in February for its body image project. 

The results show 21 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men worry a great deal about what their partner thinks of their body.

A further 43 per cent of women and 39 per cent of men said they are 'somewhat bothered' by this.

Three in ten women under 40 said they were very concerned about their partner's views on their appearance.

GENES THAT PREDICT THE MENOPAUSE 

A blood test could tell women if they are close to menopause – and when they might run out of time to have children.

Scientists have found almost 300 genetic differences in women which can help to predict the timing of their menopause.

Those with one genetic mutation can expect it 3.5 years later, which could give them longer to have a baby.

It means a blood test to scan a woman's genes could determine when she will hit the menopause – which typically comes age 45 to 55 – and identify those at risk of very early menopause. 

Researchers from Cambridge, Exeter and Copenhagen universities looked at the genes of more than 200,000 women to discover 290 genes linked to the timing of the menopause.

The study in the Nature journal identified one important gene called CHEK2 – around one in 1,000 women have an inactive version of this gene. 

These women went through the menopause around 3.5 years later than those with an active version.

Senior author Dr John Perry, of Cambridge University, said the results were 'exciting'.

As people get older they are less likely to report their sex lives being affected by body confidence issues – but the gap between men and women persists, YouGov found.

Women are more likely than men to feel that physical appearance matters 'a great deal', and feel pressured to have a certain body type.

More than half (52 per cent) of women said physical appearance mattered a great deal, rising to 61 per cent of those aged 16 to 24. Some 39 per cent of men felt this way.

Half of respondents (51 per cent) also felt pressured to have a certain body type – with women significantly more likely to feel this way than men (61 per cent compared with 40 per cent).

Younger women were far more likely than men of their age, and older women, to report feeling a great deal of expectation to look a certain way.

Sex and relationships therapist Ammanda Major, head of service quality and clinical practice at Relate, said women faced unrealistic expectations.

She said that 'people are consistently surrounded by images of perfect bodies, perfect everything in the media, in films, on social media, and it can be an insidious thing', and gradually they start 'to form a belief that you're not OK unless you are doing everything you can do to look a certain way'.

She added: 'I think that's what becomes the pressure – people telling themselves they're not good enough because they don't look like stuff they are seeing on social media or wherever.

'So there is something around standing back and learning to love that person in the mirror – because that person is very likely absolutely fine.'

The research also found that 87 per cent of respondents believed some people are treated more favourably because they are good looking. 

YouGov project manager Milan Dinic said the survey suggested women felt body image pressures more acutely than men, with very few feeling no pressure to look a certain way.

He said: 'The vast majority of the public think that how someone looks matters a lot in today's society.'

Tom Madders, from the charity YoungMinds, said body image concerns can have a significant impact on the mental health of young people, adding: 'Be kind to yourself and try to remember that images online are often digitally altered to make them look 'perfect'.' 

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