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I've heard this one repeated by women I know a few times, but it sounds like a product of confirmation bias to me. Is there supporting evidence for the claim that if you don't wear a bra you should expect saggier boobs at old age?

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I'd be surprised if the research has been done. If you're keen to conduct it, I suggest a prospective longitudinal study, giving the subjects a special one-boob bra. Given the elasticity of the skin, though, I think it should stand to reason that you'd see this effect to some extent. –  David Hedlund May 12 '11 at 9:09
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they certainly stop them from sagging. –  Jodrell May 12 '11 at 12:14
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"Is there supporting evidence..." - well phrased, indeed. –  peteorpeter May 12 '11 at 15:35
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I figured (no pun, I swear!) that was the case. I fully support (arrgh!) your decision to stick to your guns (oh come on). –  peteorpeter May 12 '11 at 15:52
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Off topic, but: so one boobs says to the other, if we don't get some support soon people are going to think we're nuts. –  Monkey Tuesday May 12 '11 at 17:20
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1 Answer

up vote 56 down vote accepted

According to the Wikipedia article (with sources), not even bra manufacturers claim that bras prevent saggy breasts.

Now, this is of course not conclusive. I have found two studies, that go further and claim that wearing no bra actually trains the chest muscles, making the breasts firmer and thus prevent sagging.

The first is a Japanese study, Breast form changes resulting from a certain brassière from 1990. Their salient finding is that,

In all subjects, after 3 months of brassière constraint … the breasts tended to hang down.

But the study only had 11 subjects so its expressive power is very low.

The second study is by Pierrot L., Evolution du sein après l'arrêt du port du soutien gorge, étude préliminaire longitudinale sur 33 sportives volontaires from 2003. Unfortunately, I cannot find this study online. It is referenced by a lot of health sites.

The key points are referred in the linked article (in French) are:

  • There were 33 test subjects between 18 and 25 years.
  • After one year of going bra-less, there was an improved development of the pectoral muscles, and a reduction of sagging (measured by a reduced distance between acromion and nipple).

In conclusion, nobody seriously claims that bras prevent saggy breasts (when no bra is worn). Furthermore, two studies tentatively confirm the idea that wearing bras actually causes saggy breasts.

(It should be noted though that this is not an exclusive cause: breasts will start sagging with age regardless of whether a bra is worn, but wearing a bra can accelerate the effect.)

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Anecdotally speaking whenever you watch national geographic videos, the bra-less people of the rainforest are definitely sagging. –  Apreche May 12 '11 at 12:11
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@Apreche: Sagging compared to what? Have you observed lots of breasts of women of similar age in bra-wearing cultures? Most of the easily available pictures of bare breasts in Western cultures have a selection bias, typically being fairly young and often picked for breast appearance. There's also likely genetic differences between rainforest women and Western women. –  David Thornley May 12 '11 at 12:24
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@Apreche: Women in national geographic videos have probably breastfed more children than westerners, because they're more likely to have children, and are less likely to use formula. –  Andrew Grimm May 12 '11 at 13:01
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@Apreche - There are huge dietary differences between rain-forest people and westerners. –  Kit Sunde May 12 '11 at 14:36
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-1 due to the lack of images. j/k –  user288 May 12 '11 at 20:27
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