Parliamentary debate on body image - Mental Health Foundation statement

Questions about body image and how images in advertising, social and traditional media may affect millions of people are being addressed today and tomorrow in Parliament.

On Monday 22 June, Baroness Bull will deliver an oral question in the House of Lords about the impact of weight and shape related bullying, criticisms and teasing on long-term mental health. On Tuesday 23 July the House of Commons will hold a general debate on body image and mental health.

“We welcome these initiatives by the Houses of Parliament, and the Government’s willingness to devote Parliamentary time to a matter that is affecting the daily lives of millions of people,” said Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director of England and Wales at the Mental Health Foundation.

Dr Kousoulis added: “Body image concerns are not a mental health problem in themselves, but they can make a person more likely to have problems. At a time when the mental health of young people especially seems to be under unprecedented strain, we cannot dismiss body image as a trivial or frivolous subject.

“The Mental Health Foundation believes the evidence shows the need for curbs on the promotion of unhealthy or idealised body images, notably on social media and in advertising of fashion, cosmetics and other products.

“Social media companies should be required to take action to ensure the content they promote does not exacerbate body image concerns. The new independent regulator proposed in the Government’s Online Harms White Paper could enforce such duties.”

Body image was the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week in May, when the Foundation revealed that just over one in eight people (13 per cent) have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image, according to a YouGov poll of 4,505 UK adults.

Teenagers were the group most affected by body image concerns, with four in ten (40 per cent) saying images on social media had caused them to worry about their body image. 

This week’s parliamentary debates come at a time when MPs on the Commons’ DCMS Committee are inquiring into reality TV – work that the Mental Health Foundation also welcomes.

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Notes to Editors: For more information and to arrange interviews with a spokesperson from the Mental Health Foundation, please contact Fran Edwards on 07786 437249 or Rachel Baird at the Mental Health Foundation, on 0207 803 1110 or [email protected]