3D technology has turned movies and medical images, and now it can help young women better appreciate their bodies.
Virginia Ramseyer Winter, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work and director of MU's Research and Policy Center, is a nationally recognized body image specialist. In a new study, she found that 3D scanners images can be used to help young women focus on appreciating the body, which in turn can improve mental health.
3D body image scanning is a relatively new tool in social science research, and research on using 3D tools to improve body image is scarce. We wanted to see if this could provide a way to help young women shift their focus away from appearance and function. "
Virginia Ramseyer Winter, Director of the MU Body Image Research and Policy Center
In their study, young adult women between the ages of 18 and 25 were examined on a 3D scanner used by researchers and students at MU's Department of Textile and Clothing Management. Researchers used modeling software to convert scans into 3D avatars. Participants then "digitally" painted the body parts they appreciated for various reasons, such as their usefulness or role in their relationships.
"By digitally painting their avatars, women could think of how, for example, their thighs help them run or how their arms can help hold others in a hug," said Ramseyer Winter. "It provided participants with a way to visualize their bodies in a completely different way. This allowed participants to recognize how our bodies are much more than a size or a number on a scale."
Immediately and then again, three months after digitally painting their avatars, participants reported a greater appreciation of the body over time. In addition, participants reported lower depressive and anxious symptoms.
"While more research has yet to be done on the relationship between 3D image intervention we use and its impact on mental health, we see a significant effect on body appreciation," said Ramseyer Winter. "Previous research has shown that body appreciation is related to depression and anxiety, which leads us to think that we are on the right track to create an intervention that can improve not only body image but also mental health."
Future research will examine how 3D avatars paint affects young women with more severe depression.
Antoinette Landor, co-director of the Center for Research and Policy on Body Image, co-authored the study. Other MU researchers working on the project were Michelle Teti, Kristen Morris, Erin Schliep, Danielle Pevehouse-Pfeiffer and Emily Pekarek.
The study is part of the newly created Body Image Research and Policy Center, an interdisciplinary research center located at MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. The center was built around the goal of improving body image, health and wellness for individuals, families and communities.
University of Missouri-Columbia