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PLoS One. 2015 Sep 29;10(9):e0139177. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139177. eCollection 2015.

A Meta-Analytic Review of Stand-Alone Interventions to Improve Body Image.

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Department of Clinical Psychological Science, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America.
Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England.
School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, England.



Numerous stand-alone interventions to improve body image have been developed. The present review used meta-analysis to estimate the effectiveness of such interventions, and to identify the specific change techniques that lead to improvement in body image.


The inclusion criteria were that (a) the intervention was stand-alone (i.e., solely focused on improving body image), (b) a control group was used, (c) participants were randomly assigned to conditions, and (d) at least one pretest and one posttest measure of body image was taken. Effect sizes were meta-analysed and moderator analyses were conducted. A taxonomy of 48 change techniques used in interventions targeted at body image was developed; all interventions were coded using this taxonomy.


The literature search identified 62 tests of interventions (N = 3,846). Interventions produced a small-to-medium improvement in body image (d+ = 0.38), a small-to-medium reduction in beauty ideal internalisation (d+ = -0.37), and a large reduction in social comparison tendencies (d+ = -0.72). However, the effect size for body image was inflated by bias both within and across studies, and was reliable but of small magnitude once corrections for bias were applied. Effect sizes for the other outcomes were no longer reliable once corrections for bias were applied. Several features of the sample, intervention, and methodology moderated intervention effects. Twelve change techniques were associated with improvements in body image, and three techniques were contra-indicated.


The findings show that interventions engender only small improvements in body image, and underline the need for large-scale, high-quality trials in this area. The review identifies effective techniques that could be deployed in future interventions.

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