Barbie: Bestie or Bad Influence? Women Open Up About Body Image Influences in 2023


Harmony Healthcare IT, a data management firm that works with health data, surveyed women across generations about their relationship with their body image, asking specifically how the childhood toy Barbie has impacted them. Below are the results.


Survey: More than half of Gen Z Women think Barbie Represents the Ideal Body Type

Since its creation in 1959, the Barbie doll has exploded in popularity, going from a staple toy for girls to something brought to life in movies and TV shows. As it has become larger than life, it’s also faced increased scrutiny for the message it sends to girls and women about the way they look.

Nearly 1,000 women are now sharing their experiences growing up with the classic toy, and how it has impacted their own body image. While most women feel Barbie dolls portray unrealistic body images, a surprising 53% of Gen Z women think Barbie represents the ideal body type.

How Barbie Impacts Body Image

How Barbie impacts body image - report from

88% of women had a Barbie doll growing up, and it has significantly influenced how many feel about their bodies. Nearly 1 in 2 (45%) have compared the way they look to a Barbie doll. The most common body parts women compare are their waist followed by their legs, hair, and chest.

While 3 in 5 feel new Barbies are better at reflecting all body types than older versions, 69% still think Barbie dolls can lead to body image issues. The doll seems to have left a different impression on Gen Zers. More than half (53%) think Barbie represents the ideal body type, and 39% of Gen Z women consider the doll to be a role model.

No matter what people feel about Barbie, women feel toys can send a powerful message to kids at a young age. Survey statistics show more than 3 in 5 (62%) think toys can encourage sexism, and 31% have trouble finding toys for girls that are not pink. Some countries have adopted a gender neutrality law that encourages toymakers to create gender-neutral products that are not marketed specifically to boys or girls. More than 2 in 5 (41%) women think the U.S. should establish a law like that.

Body Image Issues in 2023

Body image issues in 2023 - report from  

While it may be hard to determine what leads to bad body image, some women are dealing with it at a young age. More than 1 in 4 (27%) started struggling with negative body image issues when they were just 10 years old or younger. Overall, 79% have dealt with negative body image, and 80% of women have called themselves fat.

More than 1 in 4 (28%) women have dealt with disordered eating by doing things such as restricting their eating, eating compulsively, or eating irregularly. Gen Zers (41%) have self-admittedly struggled with this more than any other generation. More than 1 in 10 (13%) Gen Z women also shared they have a diagnosed eating disorder.

Summer is a particularly hard time when it comes to body image issues and women’s health. More than 2 in 5 (41%) dread swimsuit season, and 77% feel more self-conscious during this time when many focus on the so-called bikini body. One thing that contributes to the pressure: movies and TV shows. 80% of women said movies and shows add to the pressure to have a summer-ready body.

The Influence of Movies & Shows on Body Image

Movies and TV shows have a big influence on personal beauty standards as well as societal ones. Nearly 3 in 4 (72%) women feel shows and movies negatively impact societal beauty standards, and 56% shared that it has negatively impacted their own body image. One problem? A lack of realistic body types and diversity. 71% do not feel shows and movies promote body positivity and diversity.

Despite this, nearly 2 in 5 (38%) women plan to head to the theater to see the new Barbie movie. While only 1 in 6 think the movie will change their perspective about the somewhat-controversial doll, Gen Zers are going into it with more of an open mind. 35% of Gen Z women think the movie will give them a more positive perspective of Barbie.

Barbie dolls have been a go-to toy for decades. It continues to be a staple for many children and has withstood many opinions both positive and negative. While it may be hard to tell what leads to body image issues, remember you are beautiful, and feeling confident in your body often has to come from within. So next time you look in the mirror, don’t look at what you perceive as imperfections, but acknowledge you are stunning in your own way.


In June 2023, we surveyed 999 women about their relationship with their body image. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 77 with an average age of 43. 23% were Baby Boomers, 25% were Gen X, 26% were Millennials, and 26% were Gen Z.

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Jun 22 2023

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