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‘Emotional support Barbies’ can improve adults’ mental health: psychologist

Life can be a little more fantastic with some plastic.

The record-breaking “Barbie” movie has inspired a cultural phenomenon, contributing to a pink paint shortage and inspiring a fabulously feminine fashion trend, dubbed “Barbiecore.”

More than just an aesthetic fad, the Greta Gerwig-directed flick, starring Margot Robbie as the titular Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, has also sparked conversations around mental health and the power of nostalgia.

Since the film’s release, Barbie doll sales have reportedly spiked — much of which could be thanks to adult viewers on a search for their “emotional support Barbies,” reported CNN on Tuesday.

Recently, adults on social media have shared their newly purchased Mattel dolls, touting the toy in a bid to reconnect with their childhood, reported CNN on Tuesday.

The hashtag #emotionalsupportbarbie has 1.9 million views on TikTok, featuring videos of girls and women — and even some men — buying Barbie dolls that look like them, represent their careers, or inspire them to be their authentic selves.

“My daughter bought me an American girl doll because I never had one as a child. It definitely heals something,” one person wrote.

“My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a Barbie. Time to heal my inner child,” another shared.

The official TikTok account for lifestyle and relationships website YourTango also recently posted a video asserting that women who are buying comfort Barbies are “reclaiming play in their lives.”

The clips narrations mused: “As women we are expected to grow up and grow out of childish things like dolls and leave them behind. Men also have some pressure to grow up, but they still have man caves and video games and even Lego sets aimed at adults. Women don’t necessarily get to play in the same way men do as adults.”

As such, some mental health experts have come to regard the blockbuster as more than just an impressive marketing scheme as the “Barbie” movie’s ability to inspire adult “play” may indeed be emotionally beneficial.

Kristin Flora, a professor of psychology at Franklin College in Indiana, told CNN, “We have quite a bit of research that shows the benefits of play for children. But increasingly, we have scientific evidence that play is beneficial for adults as well, especially in the mental health realm.”

She added that some research suggests that it has helped with depression and building a sense of optimism.

“In my classes, I teach that the confidence level for boys and girls is about equal up until about age 13. And that’s when we start to see confidence really get broken down and disrupted in girls, whereas boys; confidence tends to excel,” she told the outlet. “That suggests that the psychological pressures at that age are really monumental for girls. A sense of play can help buffer against those changes.”

Previous studies have shown that nostalgia is good for you and can have its own benefits for mental health.

So, while Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” has broken multiple records and joined an elite group of films that have all surpassed $1 billion in global box office sales, it has also shaped conversations on girl power and helped bring comfort to women who might have needed it.