• Understanding the relationship between body image and menopause in South Asian Canadian women

      Dhillon, Taranjot Kaur; Applied Health Sciences Program
      Research regarding women’s body image during menopause is limited; few studies reflect the experiences of ethnic women, especially South Asian women living in Canada. Cultural differences play an important role in both body image and menopause experiences and may be particularly important to South Asian women, who often fear stigmatization and struggle with openly discussing health concerns. This study used interpretive phenomenological analysis, which focuses on understanding and interpreting the experiences of the participants, to explore the relationship between body image and the transition of menopause in South Asian Canadian women. Nine first generation South Asian immigrant Canadian women (aged 49-59 years), in perimenopause or postmenopause were recruited for semi-structured individual interviews. Overall, three themes were constructed: 1) Complexity and intertwining of body image and menopause experiences, which showed that although women understood body image as a multidimensional construct, their own body image focused on weight and appearance that was impacted by menopause and aging; 2) “It's just something we go through silently”: The challenges of body image and menopause experiences, which highlighted the lack personal support from family and South Asian community and the disconnected feeling from their bodies through the menopause transition; and 3) The push and pull of South Asian and Western cultures, which focused on conflicts between the two cultures and influence of the South Asian culture on beauty, body image, and aging. Results showed that participants often upheld Western body image ideals by equating positive body image practices and attitudes with these ideals, and this was often worsened by South Asian cultural norms. Additionally, women’s understanding of body image and menopause showed a gap between their personal understanding and research. Participants emphasized a lack of ethnically appropriate education for body image and menopause, suggesting there is a need for the implementation of culturally-appropriate and community-based interventions, and resources (e.g., workshops, seminars, support groups). Moreover, an underlying narrative of cultural conflict (Western vs South Asian cultures) and impact of the South Asian culture was evident. Therefore, further examination of the complexity and influence of the South Asian culture on body image and menopause experiences is required.