Study: Prioritising health over looks starts at age 35

General Health

Thirty-five is the age where health becomes more important than looks.


Bella Marsden

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In recent months we’ve seen a real change in people’s attitudes to health, with more and more people taking an active interest in their inner health, rather than just focussing on their outer appearance. We wanted to dig deeper to see how people’s views about health and beauty change as they get older. And we had some surprising findings!

From the age of 35, women and men are more focused on their ‘inner health’ and this trend has been driven by increased demand to track everything from steps to calories to blood-markers, and a decrease spend on beauty products.  As well as wearing fitness trackers (12%), tracking blood-markers (8%) and having regular health assessments (9%), 87% of this group rank their inner health as more important than being attractive. 

Up to the age of 35 however, the priority is about looking good. Between ages 18 to 21, it is now common to drink protein shakes (17%), build muscle in the gym (10%), whiten teeth (4%) and take diet pills (5%) and by the age of 22-25 such trends have increased  with this age group the most beauty-focused  of all.

Over half (56%) of this group (22-25) routinely goes to extreme lengths for beauty. Two in 10 regularly have their teeth whitened and the same number use sun-beds. Some even use ‘celebrity IV drips’ to get a beauty ‘glow’, laxatives to shed weight and anabolic steroids to build muscle. They were also the group who felt the most pressure to look a certain way, and this could be the driving force behind these behaviors.

From 26-29, unhealthy trends such as diet pills and skipping meals have started to decrease with this group spending more time (34 hrs per month) and more money exercising.  Yet the primary motivation for this exercise is usually to look a certain way – rather than maintain health.

Yet by the age of 35, we appear to worry less about our appearance and are more likely to agree that feeling good is more important than looking good (38%).  The pressure to look a certain way has also disappeared and there is a greater interest in how our diet and lifestyle is impacting on our inner body.  

The older we get, the less likely we seem to care about our appearance and the more we focus on health. When asked to choose between looking good on the outside or being healthy on the inside just 2% of the over 55s chose being beautiful compared to one in three (27%) of those in their twenties.  

We think this research reflects the rise in both men and women placing more emphasis on their health and wellbeing from their mid-thirties. And this is an attitude change we predict will happen across all age groups, as more people in the UK are becoming less focused on achieving body image perfection and more interested in how their current diet and lifestyle is impacting their body – and this can only be a good thing!

Notes:

The study sampled over 2,000 UK adults in November 2017, assessing attitudes, behaviours and feelings surrounding inner health, wellbeing, and physical beauty.

1 Cosmetic Industry In Figures (CTPA) (2016): www.ctpa.org.uk/document.aspx?fileid=2990
2 Opinium online research conducted among a nationally representative sample of 2,004 UK adults during November 2017.

Each age group was asked  ‘Which of the following have you done in the past year to enhance your appearance or looks?’ e.g. take laxatives to lose weight, use sun beds, whiten teeth, etc.  32% of those aged 18-21 do, 56% of those aged 22-25 do, 47% of those aged 26-29 do and 40% of those aged 30-35 do, 25% of those aged 36-54 do, 11% of those aged 55+ do. 
Each age group was asked  ‘how important is looking attractive to you?’ 76% of those aged 18-21, 80% of those aged 22-25, 73% of those aged 26-29 and 69% of those aged 30-35, 59% of those aged 36-54, 45% of those aged 55+ rated it ‘important.’ 
Each age group was asked  ‘Do you do any of the following as part of your routine to enhance your looks or appearance’ e.g. take laxatives to lose weight, use sun beds, whiten teeth, etc.  35% of those aged 18-21 do, 56% of those aged 22-25 do, 47% of those aged 26-29 do and 40% of those aged 30-35 do, 25% of those aged 36-54 do, 11% of those aged 55+ do.
Spend on exercise by age: £14.96 for those aged 18-21, £13.47 for those aged 22-25, £41.72 for those aged 26-29, £29.20 for those aged 31-35, £11.56 for those aged 35-54 and just £5.42 for those aged 55+
For example, 24% said they feel that they should have a certain muscle tone, 27% feel pressure to be thin, 31% feel pressure to look a certain way, 35% want to look good in a swimsuit, 17% want to look good with their shirt off,1 2% said their primary motivation for using the gym is to look good, rather than to maintain my health 
Just 17% of those aged 35 and over worry about what they look like – compared to 34% of those aged 18-34. With just 11% saying they feel pressure to look a certain way (compared to 39% among 22-25 year olds)

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