Toxic beauty ideals cost the U.S. economy $305 billion due to body dissatisfaction and $501 billion due to appearance-based discrimination in 2019, according to "The Real Cost of Beauty Ideals" report released by The Dove Self-Esteem Project.
The report assessed the pervasive and damaging impact of beauty standards on the U.S. economy and society.
Expressed in current dollars, the costs of body dissatisfaction and appearance-based discrimination would be even higher, with inflation averaging 3.9% annually between 2019 and 2022.
The study was conducted in consultation with S. Bryn Austin, ScD, SM, founding director of the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders: A Public Health Incubator (STRIPED) at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital, and a diverse team of economists at Deloitte Access Economics along with an advisory panel of subject matter experts.
Alessandro Manfredi, chief marketing officer for Dove, said, "The way people feel about their bodies can no longer be considered a superficial issue as we're seeing the devastating toll of narrow beauty standards and appearance-based bias on individuals and society as a whole. The harmful beauty ideals perpetuated in media, advertising and in our social media feeds every day are negatively impacting the quality of life for women and girls, and we must take action to change this. The 'Real Cost of Beauty Ideals' report uncovers the significant scale of the harm being perpetuated from these ideals and Dove is deeply committed to changing beauty for the better—but we need the help of others to make systemic change possible."
We have known for a long time that narrow and biased beauty ideals can be toxic, especially for girls' self-esteem and self-concept, and can play a role in the risk for developing an eating disorder or other serious mental health conditions.
We've also had a sense of how pervasive discrimination based on weight and skin shade can be and how cruelly undermining in just about all facets of the lives of affected individuals. But until we did our study, we had no idea how broad reaching and enormous the impacts are on our economy. By our estimates, hundreds of billions of dollars are being squandered in our economy every year. Why? Because our society has not yet been willing to reckon with the pernicious effects of sexist and racist beauty ideals and the discrimination that serves no other purpose than to enforce and perpetuate these noxious ideals. We hope our study findings will be a catalyst to begin that long-overdue reckoning."