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Muslim dress linked to women’s sense of well-being

By Hanna Rahman –

Can wearing the hijab make Muslim women happier and more resilient? A recent study says that it just might. The practice of hijab is common in many Muslim cultures, but little is known about how covering up impacts mental health. In the study, Nicholas Eaton of Stony Brook University investigated how the exposure of “covering up” impacts mental health of Muslim women in the United States.

Of course, there’s the concern that standing out could cause insecurities. However, the study found that although wearing hijab can draw attention and in some cases, even make Muslim women targets of discrimination, hijab can serve as a protective or resilience factor as well.

For instance, hijab allows Muslim women to combine their identities as Muslims and Americans and create a unique identity. Hijab can also make it easier to identify with the wider Muslim community, especially during stressful situations, allowing for social support.

The study also investigated the psychological well-being of Muslim women living in the United States in regard to their practice of Islamic standards of dress and religiosity. Overall, the study found that the more an individual envisions herself as religious and/or wears loose-fitted clothing, the less likely she is to experience symptoms relating to anxiety or depression.

According to the study, this may suggest that Muslim women who wear loose-fitted clothing may not feel the need to conform to the beauty standards of the Western media, feel less like sexualized objects, and have fewer distressing body image concerns.

The study also found that the Islamic dress practices of hijab and wearing loose-fitted clothing might relate to psychological well-being in majority non-Muslim countries. Religiosity and loose-fitted clothing appear to be significant factors in the resilience of Muslim women in the United States.

For the study, questionnaires were filled out by 50 Muslim women ages 18 to 31 who were studying at a large university in the northeast United States. Half wore Hijab, half did not. The results were published in the Winter 2015 issue of the Journal of Muslim Mental Health.

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