Millions of teenagers worry about body image and identify social media as a key cause – new survey by the Mental Health Foundation

Millions of teenagers in Britain worry about their body image according to a new British survey published by the Mental Health Foundation.

The online survey of British teenagers aged 13 to 19 was commissioned as part of Mental Health Awareness Week which this year has the theme of body image.

It found that almost one third (31 per cent) of teenagers felt ashamed in relation to their body image.

Four in ten teenagers (40 per cent) said images on social media had caused them to worry about body image.

More than a third of British teenagers (35 per cent) had stopped eating at some point or restricted their diets as a result of worrying about their body image.

Four in ten teenagers (40 per cent) said that things their friends have said have made them worry about their body image.

Thirty five per cent of teenagers worried in relation to their body image often or every day, and 37 per cent of teenagers felt upset and ashamed in relation to their body image. 

Jane Caro, Programme Lead for Families, Children and Young People at the Mental Health Foundation said: “Our survey has shown that millions of young people in Britain are worrying about their body image. Worries about body image can lead to mental health problems and in some instances are linked to self-harm and suicidal thoughts and feelings.

“It is also clear from our survey that teenagers are identifying images on social media as a key factor that makes them worry about their body image. Conversations with their friends also have a major role in causing young people to worry.”

The Foundation report “Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies” highlights the range of commercial and advertising pressures on body image which are contributing to mental health problems for millions of young people and calls for immediate action across all aspects of society to safeguard the health of teenagers as they grow up.

Jane said “Action starts in our families and homes with how we talk about our bodies and about eating, but we also need more regulation of advertising promoting idealised and unattainable body images.  Social media companies should urgently up their game in taking practical steps to ensure that the content they promote does not exacerbate body image concerns.”

To mark the week, the Foundation is launching a specially designed body image module at the Ravensbourne School in Bromley to be used as part of its Peer-to-Peer mental health programme in schools.

The charity’s Make It Count education campaign is currently lobbying for peer-led mental health programmes be introduced in schools to ensure that positive mental health is at the centre of every child’s education.

Ends

Notes to editors:

The survey was published as part of a report - Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1118 teenagers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th- 21st March 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB children (aged 13-19).

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 is to help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health.

For further information on Make It Count visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-schools-make-it-count

For more information please contact the Mental Health Foundation Press Office on 0207 803 1110 or Fran Edwards on [email protected], mobile 07786 437249.