Society problems

New study shows society’s beauty standards are costing us billions

Simone Cheung’s job is to quantify what seems unquantifiable. As a health economist at Deloitte Access Economics, she has led projects that measure the economic and social impact of, for example, child abuse and elder neglect. Putting a tangible price on these societal problems cements them as such – societal problems, not individual problems – and encourages policy makers to pass laws and allocate government resources accordingly.

With that in mind, the Dove Self-Esteem Project posed a question to Cheung and S. Bryn Austin, ScD, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health: Can you quantify the cost of society’s ideals of beauty? The answer is yes, and the resulting study is the first of its kind.

“We have known for years how harmful ideals of beauty can harm mental health and well-being and how insidious discrimination based on appearance, particularly discrimination based on weight and color of skin, can harm opportunities for work, education, etc. more,” says Dr. Austin, who is also director of the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED). for the most part, past research has focused on the individuals most affected, not the impact for society at large. And what we haven’t had so far is a clear picture of the impact of these issues on the United States. economy.”

And as we said: Talking dollars and cents may be the best way to get lawmakers to listen.

The True Cost of Beauty Ideals report, which is now available on, examines the financial and well-being costs of body dissatisfaction and discrimination based on appearance, citing $305 billion respectively. and $501 billion in losses. These figures take into account a long list of factors, including a lower likelihood of employment due to discrimination and the need for government-funded services due to mental health issues.

“If you look at it from a different perspective, the numbers indicate that if we tackle harmful beauty ideals head-on, there is the opportunity to increase productivity and economic output in the United States,” says Cheung, “$305 billion if we tackle body dissatisfaction and $501 billion if we tackle discrimination based on appearance.”