More than half of us are suffering from a negative body image, according to a new report.
Not only this, but it is also seen as an underlying cause of health and relationship problems, a key contributor to low self-esteem and a major barrier to participation in school and progression in work.
The problem is so acute that girls as young as five now worry about their size and appearance, half of girls and one quarter of boys believe their peers have body image problems, and appearance is the largest cause of bullying in schools.
The report was co-authored by a cross party group of MPs and health and education charity, Central YMCA and published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image.
The response to the three-month public inquiry co-ordinated by the APPG was that media, advertising and celebrity culture together account for almost three quarters of the influence on body image in society, yet the “body ideal” that they typically present was estimated to not be physically achievable by nearly 95 per cent of the population.
Central YMCA will now take forward the report’s recommendations in a national campaign, to be launched in the autumn in partnership with several other organisations.
The campaign will include the creation of a brand, or “kite mark”, which will be awarded to socially responsible businesses taking action to tackle negative body image.
Jo Swinson MP, Chair of the APPG said: “Body image dissatisfaction in the UK has reached an all time high and the pressure to conform to an unattainable body ideal is wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of many people. Our inquiry took evidence from academics, the public, industry, charities and other experts, whose submissions formed the basis for the recommendations in the report. I welcome the work of Central YMCA and other organisations in taking these recommendations forward.”
Rosi Prescott, CEO Central YMCA, said: “It’s clear that there’s something seriously wrong in society when children as a young as five are worrying about their appearance, based on the messages they are seeing all around them.
“The findings of the report are shocking; body image has become more important in our culture than health, and children are mimicking their parents’ concerns about appearance. We all have a responsibility to act now to bring about the attitudinal and behavioural change that’s necessary to prevent damage to future generations and that is why we are urging the public to give us their views to help shape the campaign we will be launching this autumn.”