Though they might dread wrinkles and gray hair, Americans tend to feel most confident in their looks when they hit retirement age, a new Gallup survey found.
Among Americans age 65 and older, 66 percent said they "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that they always feel good about their physical appearance, while 61 percent of young adults ages 18 to 34 said the same.
Confidence tends to sink in middle age: Among 35- to 64-year-old Americans, 54 percent reported feeling good about their physical appearance, according to the Gallup poll. [5 Reasons Not to Fear Getting Older]
What is it about the golden years that makes it easier to look in the mirror? A shift in social expectations and beauty standards may bring a renewed sense of self-esteem, Gallup representatives said. The survey also found intriguing patterns across gender, race and ethnicity that suggest cultural factors likely determine, at least in part, how people feel about themselves.
Men are more likely to feel confident in their looks than women, though the gap narrows with age, Gallup found. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 69 percent of men reported they felt good about their physical appearance compared with the 57 percent of women who said the same. But among those 65 and older, 64 percent of men said they felt good about their looks compared with 60 percent of women.
Sixty-eight percent of blacks and 67 percent of Hispanics reported that they felt good about their physical appearance, while 55 percent of whites and 62 percent of Asians said the same, regardless of age. Whites were the only racial or ethnic group who seemed to experience a steep drop in confidence during middle age.
"In an image-conscious society where beautiful men and women flood the screens and pages of Americans' various mediums, it isn't surprising that many are left feeling inadequate," Gallup representatives wrote in a statement. "For whites, who are the least likely to feel confident in their physical appearance across all age groups, societal pressure to conform to conventional standards of physical attractiveness takes an even bigger toll."
The results were based on more than 85,000 interviews with a random, nationally representative sample of adults in the United States from Jan. 1 to June 23, 2014. The poll was part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, in which Americans were asked to rate on a 1 to 5 scale — with "1" being the lowest and "5" the greatest — how much they agreed with the statement, "I always feel good about my physical appearance." Overall, 58 percent of Americans rated their agreement a 4 or a 5, and just 15 percent answered with a 1 or 2.