Body Image Research

Body Image Research

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 behavious 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 al lmental 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. 

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 an dNs 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 Butterfly Foundation

Brief description: The project involves the development and evaluation of a body image "chatbot", which uses artifical 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:  

Title:  Genital Self-Image and Genital Cosmetic Surgery

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

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 for more information. 

Team Leader

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

Senior Research Fellow

Email: (

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Dr Toni Pikoos (

PhD Candidates

Ms Tania Gilmartin

"The relationship between dimensional models of personality pathology and disordered eating behaviour" 

Ms Courtney McLean ( 

"Are measures of eating disorder psychopathology appropriately capturing vegans?" 

Dr Sarah Rotstein (, MBBS

"Medical students' stigma against psychiatry" 

Ms Pranita Shrestha (

"Context aware interventions for eating disorder prevention an dimproved body image" 

Research Assistant

Ms Nileshni Fernando


Ms Tahlia Selzer

 MAPrc Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Level 4, 607 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004

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