Home Men Health Unpacking negative body talk: Fat talk holds stronger impact on mental health, while old talk still raises concerns

Unpacking negative body talk: Fat talk holds stronger impact on mental health, while old talk still raises concerns

Unpacking negative body talk: Fat talk holds stronger impact on mental health, while old talk still raises concerns

In a recent study published within the Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers examine the impact of negative body and age talk with mental health and quality of life (QoL) outcomes in men and ladies.

Study: Fat talk, old talk, or each? Association of negative body talk with mental health, body dissatisfaction, and quality of life in men and ladies. Image Credit: Alex_Maryna / Shutterstock.com

The health effects of body dissatisfaction

Adolescent girls and boys who experience body dissatisfaction are at an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms, eating disorder (ED) symptoms, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation. Anxiety, psychological distress, depression, and ED pathology have also been correlated with body dissatisfaction in adult men. Comparatively, middle-aged women experiencing body dissatisfaction are at a greater risk of restrained eating, experiencing bulimic symptoms, thin-ideal internalization, aging anxiety, and depression.

Negative body talk, including ‘fat talk,’ has been found to significantly contribute to body dissatisfaction. Fat talk often causes the affected person to strive for Western appearance ideals, reminiscent of a thinner or more muscular body in men and women, respectively. Along with fat talk, the pressure for people, particularly women, to age gracefully while also maintaining a skinny body may result in significant stress.

Collectively, negative or seemingly positive phrases on each body weight and a person’s age-related appearance may be described as ‘negative age-related body talk.’ Several studies have investigated the connection between each old and fat confer with health effects, with old talk significantly correlated with body image disturbances, ED pathology, and aging anxiety.

Despite these observations, researchers are still studying how old talk, fat talk, or their combination can affect body imaging, aging anxiety, ED pathology, and mental health. Moreover, it stays unclear whether the poorer health outcomes related to old talk may be attributed to its similarities with fat talk, or whether it is exclusive in its impact to each body dissatisfaction and mental health effects.

Concerning the study

The present study included 778 adults, 288 of whom were men and 490 were women, between 18 and 91 years of age who were recruited from various sources including online social media platforms, clinics, local senior centers, coffee shops, libraries, and networks of the research team. The study participants were recruited from the USA, the UK, and other Western European countries. About 64% of the participants were White/Caucasian, 18% were Hispanic, 4.5% Asian, and 4.2% Black/African American.

An internet survey distributed to the participants was used to evaluate how often they engaged in fat talk and old talk, levels of body dissatisfaction, depression, ED pathology, aging anxiety, QoL, general anxiety, and demographics.

The Negative Body Talk Scale (NBTS), which was used to judge engagement in fat talk, included 13 items that created a body concerns and body comparison subscale based on the responses. A modified 13-item NBTS was also created to evaluate old talk, with participants rating the frequency of claiming a specific phrase on a seven-point Likert scale that ranged from “never” to “all the time.”

The ED-15, which consists of 10 attitudinal items and five eating behavior items, was used to judge ED pathology based on a six-point Likert scale. Total scores were obtained by averaging the ten attitudinal items, with the next total rating reflecting a greater degree of ED pathology.

The Body Satisfaction Questionnaire-16b is a 16-item scale that asks about a person’s body image, negative feelings, and any actions that the person takes to address these feelings. Responses were based on a six-point Likert scale, with higher scores reflecting a greater level of body dissatisfaction.

An eight-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8), which was scored on a four-point scale, was used to evaluate depressive symptoms, with higher scores also indicating more severe depressive symptoms. Anxiety about Aging Scale (AAS) with a five-point Likert scale was used to measure aging anxiety, whereas the General Anxiety Scale was used to evaluate anxiety symptoms. The EUROHIS QOL eight-item index was used to evaluate the psychological, physical, social, and environmental points of a person’s QoL.

Study findings

Engaging in fat talk and the next body mass index value (BMI) was significantly related to increased ED pathology. Notably, women more regularly engaged in each old and fat talk, each of which were related to a greater risk of ED pathology and poorer QoL in women.

Increased fat talk was also related to higher levels of body dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms, while older age was linked to lower levels of body dissatisfaction.

Comparatively, old talk didn’t affect ED pathology nor body dissatisfaction, with older age as an alternative related to reduced ED pathology. Old talk didn’t appear to affect depressive symptoms.

In men, a greater amount of old and fat talk was related to greater general anxiety. Old talk, reasonably than fat talk, increased the chance of aging anxiety in women, with older age in women related to less anxiety and a greater QoL.


Fat talk appears to have a greater impact on mental health and QoL measures as in comparison with old talk; nonetheless, each kinds of negative body talk were significantly correlated with QoL and mental health. The extent to which these aspects influence body image and mental health throughout an individual’s life stays unclear. A greater understanding this phenomenon might help promote mental health and body image, particularly in midlife and beyond.

Journal reference:

  • Hooper, S. C., Kilpela, L. S., Ogubuike, V., et al. (2023). Fat talk, old talk, or each? Association of negative body talk with mental health, body dissatisfaction, and quality of life in men and ladies. Journal of Eating Disorders 11(77). doi:10.1186/s40337-023-00803-1


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