Researchers at the University of Warwick and the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England in Bristol are embarking on a major survey of the attitudes and experience of people who believe they have a physical appearance which is perceived negatively by other people.
The study is part of a large project involving over 1,000 people with such concerns in Bristol, London, Sheffield, Bradford and the West Midlands. The University of Warwick researchers are currently looking for people within the West Midlands to take part in the survey
University of Warwick Medical School researcher Dr Rodger Charlton said:
“Some people feel distress because of their appearance and have difficulties, for example with meeting other people, while others do not. We want to find out why this is, and how these people's experiences can be used to help those who are suffering because of the way they look. We hope that this research will help to develop better ways of supporting people with a physical appearance which is seen as different to others.”
Warwickshire woman Kaz Thomas, who once appeared on ITV's documentary “The Unluckiest Faces in Britain”, is strongly backing the research. Kaz suffered from severe acne over a seven-year period, since 1996, caused initially after taking contraception injections. She said:
"I felt like a freak" she explained. "I constantly had people reacting to me and people would not want to come near me." I remember one woman saying 'I think you're really brave - if I looked like that I'd wear a paper bag over my head.'
“I find it alarming that we live in a society where looks are of greater importance than that which makes the person as a whole. The world we live in puts a great deal on self-image and beauty and being different is very difficult and isolating”
“I appeared on the TV programme as I wanted to share with the world what it's like to be on the other end of discrimination and I hope this survey will also bring a wider understanding of what it is like to feel discriminated against because of how you look,"
The researchers aim to speak to people with a wide range of concerns about their physical including perceived obesity, excessive weight loss, skin problems, or any other perceived issue with body shape or appearance.
Anyone wishing to take part in the research should contact:
Kaz Thomas offers a counseling service to people who are experiencing problems because of their perceived physical appearance and has a web site at www.kazthomas.com