Middle East Meets West: A Cross-National Examination of Body Image and Health Behaviors in Jordan and the United States

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


Body image is a multidimensional construct that includes a person's perception and evaluation of his or her appearance, and the influence of these cognitions on behavior. Body image concerns have been associated with harmful health behaviors such as dysfunctional eating, cigarette smoking, and excessive exercise. Many factors intrinsic to the individual affect body image including gender, ethnicity, and body weight. Outside forces such as the media can also influence body image. Research on body image in Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan is sparse, but important to pursue given the unique religious and cultural factors that may affect body image in this culture. The purpose of the research described in this chapter was to examine body image in a Middle Eastern culture and compare this sample to a similar sample from the United States. Participants were university students from Irbid, Jordan (N = 449) and Bridgewater, Massachusetts (N = 262) who completed several questionnaires measuring body image, media consumption and internalization, religiosity, modesty of dress, eating and exercise behaviors, and nicotine dependence. Findings suggest that there may be aspects of Middle Eastern culture that are protective against the development of a harmful body image, as Jordanians tended to report a healthier body image than Americans. Within each culture, higher appearance satisfaction tended to be associated with healthier behaviors. In general, Jordanians were more likely to report engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as maladaptive eating, smoking (specific to men) and little to no physical activity (primarily for women). Specific differences by culture and gender are discussed. Information from this research can be used to increase intercultural understanding and inform prevention and intervention efforts.

Original Citation

King, T.K., Morse, B., Woofenden, H., Copithorne, M., Dunigan, B., & Sylvia, Z. (2013). Middle East Meets West: A Cross-National Examination of Body Image and Health Behaviors in Jordan and the United States. In L.B. Sams & J.A. Keels (Eds.), Handbook on Body Image: Gender Differences, Sociocultural Influences, and Health Implications (53-101). New York: NOVA Science Publishers.

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