Body Image Research

Body Image

More than 43% of Australians are highly concerned about their body image. Negative body image affects people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, and can lead to risky behaviours such as extreme dieting, excessive exercise, and the pursuit of cosmetic surgery. Negative body image is the strongest risk factor for the development of eating disorders, the most deadly of all mental health conditions. Furthermore, body image concerns have been linked to other mental health conditions including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

The Body Image Research Group investigates the social and cultural factors which influence the development of body image concerns, with a particular focus on the impact of mass media and social media. We also develop and evaluate novel interventions to treat body image issues and disorders with a focus on the use of innovative technologies such as mobile apps and artificial intelligence-based chatbots.

Team Leader - Dr Gemma Sharp

BSc (Mol Biol) (Hons), Dip Lang, MSc, Grad Dip Psyc Sci, BBSc (Hons), PhD (Clin Psyc), MAPS, FCCLP

Dr Gemma SharpDr Gemma Sharp and her Body Image Research Group investigate the factors leading to body image and related mental health concerns and novel therapeutic interventions using digital technologies (such as chatbots and mobile apps) to address these concerns.

E: Gemma.Sharp@monash.edu

Find out more about Dr Gemma Sharp


Featured Projects

Title: Improving Body Image and Mental Health: The Development of a Novel Conversational Agent or “Chatbot” Intervention on Social Media

Investigators: Dr Gemma Sharp, Prof Jayashri Kulkarni, Dr Toni Pikoos and  Ms Nileshni Fernando

Collaborators: Prof Susan Rossell (Swinburne University); Dr Suku Sukunesan (Swinburne University), Dr Stephanie Louise (Swinburne University), Dr Sally Bradford (Open Arms), the Butterfly Foundation, Pattr Team, and Yoke Team.

Funding Sources: AMP Foundation, Bupa Health Foundation, Co-operative Research Centres Association Australia, Monash University, Australian Psychological Society and the Butterfly Foundation

Brief description: This project involves the development and evaluation of a body image “chatbot”, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to have human-like conversations. Our chatbot called “KIT” teaches brief evidence-based strategies to people while they are experiencing body image concerns on social media, as well as providing information and support to their loved ones. KIT was launched in November 2020 and is accessed via advertisements on social media as well as the Butterfly Foundation website. "KIT helped over 20,000 people in less than a year. Chat with KIT here: https://butterfly.org.au/chattokit/


Title: Genital Self-Image and Genital Cosmetic Surgery

Investigators: Dr Gemma Sharp, Prof Jayashri Kulkarni, Ms Nileshni Fernando, Ms Tahlia Selzer, Dr Jade Bilardi

Collaborators: Prof David Sarwer (Temple University), Prof Peter McEvoy (Curtin University), Dr Jayson Oates (private plastic surgeon), Dr Christine Hamori (private plastic surgeon), Prof Nichola Rumsey (University of the West of England), Dr Kate Dawson (NUI Galway), Prof Meredith Temple-Smith (University of Melbourne)

Funding sources: Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation, Cottons Pty Ltd, NHMRC and Blackbird Foundation

Brief description: This is a program of research investigating the factors influencing the development of genital appearance concerns in all genders. These are common body image issues, but are rarely investigated owing to the taboo nature of the topic. These concerns can lead to requests for risky cosmetic genital procedures. In our research, we are designing screening tools to assist surgeons and psychologists assess the mental health status of people requesting cosmetic genital procedures. We have also designed a mobile app called “MyMandorla” and other online resources to help prevent the development of genital appearance concerns. Please contact Dr Gemma Sharp on gemma.sharp@monash.edu for more information.