A survey found that 30% of British women at 20 universities said they would shorten their lives by a year or more in exchange for an ideal body weight.
About 10% said two-to-five years was not too high a price to pay for being svelte and shapely, while 3% were willing to give up a decade or more.
"The findings highlight that body image is an issue for all women and not just adolescent girls," said Philippa Diedrichs, a professor at the University of the West of England and the main architect of the survey.
The age of the 320 women surveyed was just under 25 years on average, and ranged from 18 to 65. The study showed a disconcerting gap between reality and image when it came to self-perception, Diedrichs said.
Weight remains an issue
Nearly 80% of the women surveyed said they wanted to lose weight. At the same time, however, 78% were actually within or under normal, healthy weight ranges.
More than nine out of 10 women said they had had "negative thoughts" about their appearance during the previous week, and a third said such thoughts had occurred "several times a day."
About 5% of the mainly young women said they had already undergone cosmetic surgery, and another 39% said they would go under the knife were it not for the high cost.
Other sacrifices that a quarter of the women were willing to make in order to be and feel thinner included £5,000 (about R54,000)from their annual salary, a promotion at work, spending more time with their partner or family, or even their health.
The survey was conducted by the Succeed Foundation, which seeks to raise awareness and provide support for those affected by eating disorders.
(Sapa, April 2011)
Life stages: 20s to 40s