Body image

This content mentions body image and eating disorders, which some people may find triggering.


  • What is body image?
  • How does body image affect your mental health?
  • Who experiences body image concerns?
  • What causes body image concerns?

What is body image?

Body image is a term used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies, including how satisfied we are with our bodies and how much we value what other people think about our bodies.

Body image is a complex thing, closely related to mental health and affected by so many things around us – people, places, images, culture, the list goes on. Body image issues can affect all of us at any age and directly affect our mental health.

How does body image affect your mental health?

Research shows that aiming for an unrealistic body image can create unhelpful attitudes about ourselves. We convince ourselves that we should strive for perfection based on what we perceive around us, but we do know, realistically, no one is perfect.

This leaves us feeling like we’re never enough. We’re always reaching for perfection, but we will never get there. This leads to an unhealthy body image, but working towards acceptance can lead to a healthier body image.

While having body image concerns is not a diagnosed mental health problem, it can be a risk factor for mental health problems.

Our research 'Body image: How we think and feel about our bodies' found that 21% of adults felt ‘satisfied’ because of their body image in the past year. We also found that around one-third of people (34%) have felt ‘down or low’, and 20% have felt ‘shame’ in the past year because of their body image.

Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder

Body image is closely linked to mental health problems, such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health problem where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance that are often unnoticeable to others, to the point that it affects their daily life.

Who experiences body image concerns?

Even though body or appearance dissatisfaction is often more common among young women, body image concerns are relevant from childhood to later life and affect both women and men.

What causes body image concerns?

Research suggests that body image and body confidence can be affected by the following:

  • our relationships with our family and friends
  • how our family and peers feel and speak about bodies and appearance
  • exposure to images of idealised or unrealistic bodies through media or social media
  • pressure to look a certain way or to match an ‘ideal’ body type

Additionally, certain social factors can cause further issues with body image and mental health, such as:

Learn more about body image and mental health

If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.

* Last updated: 6 April 2023
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