Women and Bras, Should You or Shouldn’t You Wear One?
Decades ago, women were burning their bras, but the protests had little to do with health reasons. The findings of a new 15-year study, however, add fuel to the burning question about health, women and bras: should you or shouldn’t you wear a bra?
Do women need bras?
Although the bra (brassiere) is a relatively new invention, women have used various means to support or bind their breasts since ancient times. During the estimated two decades before the first patent was issued to Mary Phelps Jacob in 1914 for a brassiere and all the decades since, women and society have changed how they view, use, and choose not to use a bra.
Aside from following social norms and trying to improve one’s appearance, the wearing of a bra also has health consequences, some of them good and some not so good. According to Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon of Besancon CHU,, his 15-year study found that women’s breasts do not benefit “medically, physiologically and anatomically” from being supported in a bra.
This finding goes against a common view of the benefits of wearing a bra, including helping women with large breasts who experience back pain because of their breast size. Rouillon, however, found that some of the 330 women (ages 18 to 35) in his study stopped using a bra because not wearing one actually helped reduce their back pain.
Rouillon also found that women’s breasts benefit from not being confined in a bra. He noted that when women wear a bra, “supporting tissues will not grow and even they will wither and the breast will gradually degrade.”
The idea that not wearing a bra will cause breasts to sag also was turned on its ear in this study. Rouillon observed that among women who did not wear a bra, their nipples lifted 7 millimeters per year toward the shoulder.
Although Rouillon noted that his findings “validated the hypothesis that the bra is a false ‘need’,” he also emphasized that women who have been wearing a bra for a long time would not reap the benefits he observed if they suddenly decided to go bra-free from now on.
His findings do suggest, however, that there is hope for young women who may choose to go bra-free when their breasts begin to appear, since wearing a bra causes the supporting muscles of the breast to degrade rather than grow and gain tone, leading to self-support.