The relationship between breast size and aspects of health and psychological wellbeing in mature-aged women

Womens Health (Lond). 2020 Jan-Dec:16:1745506520918335. doi: 10.1177/1745506520918335.


Objectives: Increases in breast size with age are common but have not been widely examined as a factor that could affect the health and psychological wellbeing of mature-aged women. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between breast size and aspects of health and psychological wellbeing in mature-aged women.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of mature-aged women (⩾40 years). Breast size (breast size score) was determined from self-reported bra size and was examined against health-related quality of life (Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36 and BREAST-Q), body satisfaction (numerical rating scale), breast satisfaction (BREAST-Q), physical activity levels (Human Activity Profile), the presence of upper back pain and breast and bra fit perceptions.

Results: Two hundred sixty-nine women (40-85 years) with bra band sizes ranging from 8 to 26 and bra cup sizes from A to HH participated. The mean (standard deviation) breast size score of 7.7 (2.7) was equivalent to a bra size of 14DD. Increasing breast size was associated with significantly lower breast-related physical wellbeing (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.043) and lower ratings of body (p = 0.002, R2 = 0.024) and breast satisfaction (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.065). Women with larger breasts were more likely to be embarrassed by their breasts (odds ratio: 1.49, 95% confidence interval: 1.31 to 1.70); more likely to desire a change in their breasts (odds ratio: 1.55, 95% confidence interval: 1.37 to 1.75) and less likely to be satisfied with their bra fit (odds ratio: 0.84, 95% confidence interval: 0.76 to 0.92). Breast size in addition to age contributed to explaining upper back pain. For each one-size increase in breast size score, women were 13% more likely to report the presence of upper back pain.

Conclusion: Larger breast sizes have a small but significant negative relationship with breast-related physical wellbeing, body and breast satisfaction. Larger breasts are associated with a greater likelihood of upper back pain. Clinicians considering ways to improve the health and psychological wellbeing of mature-aged women should be aware of these relationships.

Keywords: breast size; health; mature-aged women; psychological wellbeing; upper back pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Back Pain / etiology*
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Breast / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life