New Study From Havas WW Reveals Divergent Attitudes Toward Body Image And Health

Are you hedonistic, holistic, or functionalist about your body? Odds are, it depends where you live.

May 11, 2015, 15:00 ET from Havas Worldwide

NEW YORK, May 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- People around the world, almost universally, report a positive relationship with their body—calling it a source of happiness, pleasure, pride, and power, according to new research by global marketing and communications firm Havas Worldwide.

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Similarities end there, however. This latest issue of Prosumer Report, "iBody: The New Frontier," reveals tensions around beauty standards, health behaviors, and emerging technologies designed to track and improve health—and deep divisions between countries and regions.

"As technology changes every aspect of our lives, it's given people around the world a greater awareness of their own well-being, and a new arsenal of tools to track and improve their health," said Andrew Benett, Global CEO of Havas Worldwide and Havas Creative Group.

"At the same time, technology has opened a rich opportunity for brands in the health, beauty and fitness spaces to truly become partners to consumers on their journey to wellness," Benett added. "There is enormous potential for those brands able to help consumers make smart decisions about caring for and maximizing the value of their most important asset: themselves."

The research identifies a prevailing attitude of "beauty fatigue"—the pushback against artificial, imposed standards of beauty:

  • Nearly three-quarters of US consumers say the world would be a happier place if people weren't so obsessed with physical beauty. And there's a significant backlash to the Photoshopping of celebrities—79 percent say it's "harming society"—and the obsession with slimness and eternal youth.
  • On the other hand, millennials were more likely than any other age group to equate obesity with laziness (41 percent), suggesting that the trend might be moving toward less tolerance overall.

The report also examines consumer attitudes toward new technologies, including both present-day health wearables and the advances, from body enhancement to human genetic modification, that lie in the near-future:

  • 45 percent of US consumers favor digital devices that monitor "every aspect" of one's physical health. Across the global Prosumer segment, that number rises to 7 in 10—with nearly half already using at least one device—indicating growing acceptance for such wearables and apps.
  • Privacy remains a serious concern, however: More than 4 in 10 global respondents said they are concerned about the loss of privacy that new health-monitoring technologies would bring.
  • People remain very uncomfortable with the intrusion of science in one area in particular: human reproduction. 57 percent of global respondents, for example, said a pill that lets a couple choose a baby's physical characteristics would be "bad for society," and 53 percent said the same of choosing the baby's sex.

The report also identified country- and culture-specific perspectives and categorized the 28 respondent markets into three major typologies:

  • Pleasure Seekers: For these hedonists—typified by consumers in Brazil, France, and Spain—the body is a source of pleasure, through food, sex, or simply self-celebration. Pleasure Seekers place a high value on physical attractiveness—such as the 40 percent of Brazilians who said cosmetic surgery is a "smart choice" for people who want to be more attractive.
  • Holistic Enthusiasts: Sleeping well, eating healthfully, getting a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine, and respecting the body's natural rhythms represent the optimum path to health for holistics. Holistic Enthusiasts are most likely to be found in China, Germany, or India, where 79 percent say that both men and women who "age naturally" are more attractive than those who undergo cosmetic surgery.
  • Functionalists: Regarding their bodies as machines—to be fueled and tinkered with—functionalists strive to reach peak fitness. Functionalists are success-driven, but not necessarily grounded in reality: Markets scoring highest on functionalism—including the US, UK, and Australia—also have some of the world's highest obesity rates.

"iBody: The New Frontier" draws on findings from an online survey of 10,131 people aged 18+ in 28 markets: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey was created by Havas Worldwide and fielded by Market Probe International in March 2015.

Prosumer Reports is a series of thought leadership publications by Havas Worldwide—part of a global initiative to share information and insights, including our own proprietary research, across our network of agencies and client companies. For more information or to download the latest white paper, please visit

About Havas Worldwide

Havas Worldwide is a leading integrated marketing communications agency and was the first to be named Global Agency of the Year by both Advertising Age and Campaign in the same year. The Havas Worldwide network is made up of 11,000 employees in 316 offices in 120 cities and 75 countries, and provides advertising, marketing, corporate communications, and digital and social media solutions to some of the largest global brands. Headquartered in New York, Havas Worldwide is the largest unit of the Havas group, a world leader in communications (Euronext Paris SA: HAV.PA).

Yvonne Bond
Global Communications Director
Havas Worldwide
(212) 886-2035

SOURCE Havas Worldwide