Many over 55s feel negative about their body image new Mental Health Foundation survey finds

Many over 55s have feelings of negativity and anxiety about the way their body looks according to a new online survey published today by the Mental Health Foundation. The survey has been published to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

The survey found that 20 per cent of adults aged 55 or over have felt anxious because of their body image. 23 per cent of adults of this age group have felt depressed because of their body image, 25 per cent have said their self-esteem has been negatively affected by body image over the last year, 19 per cent had negatively compared themselves to others in the last year and 9 per cent felt disgusted in relation to their body image in the last year. More than a quarter (28 per cent) said they had dressed in a way that hides their body or part of it.

Jolie Goodman, Programmes Manager for Later Life at the Mental Health Foundation said: “Although our appearance and our relationship with our bodies change as we age, we don’t stop valuing our bodies, and in later life people are still very much concerned about body image. In a culture where the imagery that surrounds us portray young, slim, airbrushed images, it can be hard to be visible in later life.

“Millions of adults are struggling with concerns about their body image. These issues can affect anyone at any stage in life. Our survey and report is a stark reminder that this is not just a problem for young people, these figures show that many older people are affected and this is a worrying trend.

“Our poll found that many people identified social media as a key area that caused them to worry about their body image. And it is a misconception to think that older people don’t look at social media or advertisements. The main picture from our survey was one in which commercial, social media and advertising pressures on body image are contributing to mental health problems for millions of people of all age groups.”

The Mental Health Foundation believes that this social harm has been allowed to develop largely unchecked. While there have been some positive initiatives,

social media companies have frequently been unwilling to take the necessary steps to protect their users from harmful content.

One of its key asks is for the UK Government to make preventing the promotion of unhealthy or idealised body image for people of all ages, a specific part of its forthcoming regulation strategy.

The Foundation believes that new codes of practice should include an expectation that social media companies must take practical steps to ensure that the content they promote does note exacerbate body image concerns. The Foundation has also today published an accompanying report – Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies which gives advice and tips on how people can take individual action to address this urgent problem.


Notes to Editors:

Total sample size was 4,505 adults, of which 1870 were adults aged over 55. Fieldwork was between 25th - 26th March 2019. The YouGov survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Since 1949, the Mental Health Foundation has been the UK’s leading charity for everyone’s mental health. With prevention at the heart of what we do, we aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems so that people and communities can thrive. Our mission it to help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health.