A recent Gallup poll finds that although they miss how they looked when they were younger, older Americans are more likely to feel confident about their looks than people in any other age category.
In fact, most Americans are pretty satisfied with their appearance, although blacks and Hispanics are more confident than whites. Only whites saw a sharp drop in confidence about their appearance during middle age.
As The Daily Mail put it: "If you spend hours toiling over minute details of your appearance, you may find relief in the fact that you could be happier with your looks in years to come."
"Americans' concern about their physical appearance fuels a huge component of the U.S. economy," wrote Gallup's Justin McCarthy of the poll, "extending across clothing, makeup, hair care, weight control and cosmetic surgery industries. This concern about physical appearance is not totally ill-founded, given that research studies show that attractive people fare better than those perceived as less attractive in many business and social situations."
The poll did not attempt to validate respondents' views of their attractiveness, McCarthy noted.
The folks who are hardest on themselves when they look in the mirror are those who are middle-aged, according to the results of the survey, which was released July 10.
Individuals were given a five-point scale, with higher scores indicating greater satisfaction, then asked to place themselves on the scale in relation to the statement: "You always feel good about your physical appearance."
"Overall, more than half of Americans, 58 percent, agreed that they always feel good about their looks, answering with a four or five. Far fewer disagreed that they always feel good about their appearance, with 15 percent answering with a one or two. About one in four Americans (27 percent) neither agreed nor disagreed, responding with a three," said a report on the poll.
Two-thirds of those 65 and older gave themselves a four or five, compared to 42 percent of those 35-64 and 61 percent of those 18 to 34. Numbers for both men and women sagged in middle age, but climbed highest as they reached the oldest category. More men than women, though, gave themselves higher satisfaction scores, until about age 70, when the gap narrowed.
"As people age, perhaps a different set of societal expectations and appearance standards leads to a renewed sense of confidence," McCarthy wrote. "Older Americans' looks are generally out of sync with the youthful standard of beauty that prevails in American culture, and yet they are most happy with what they see in the mirror."
This isn't the first survey to try to figure out at what age we think ourselves most appealing. "Other surveys have tried to pinpoint the age where we feel sexiest. A British survey from 2012 claimed that 28 is the magic age. Another small survey said 34 is actually when women are happiest with their bodies," wrote Yagana Shah for Huffington Post.
Looking good is big business in America. Statistics Portal says that "the United States is the biggest cosmetic market in the world, with an estimated total revenue of about 54.89 billion U.S. dollars and employing about 53,619 people in 2012. The leading beauty cosmetic company in the United States in 2011 was Procter & Gamble, making up 14.2 percent of the market. Although dipping slightly, generating only 29.5 billion U.S. dollars in net sales as compared to 29.9 billion U.S. dollars the year before, the company continued to be the leading beauty cosmetic company during the 2012 fiscal year."
Last year, Americans spent more than $866 million on facelifts and $644 million reshaping noses, it noted.
This poll involved more than 80,000 interviews conducted in the first half of 2014 for the "Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index."
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