Body image: How we think and feel about our bodies

Release date: 13 May 2019

Our latest body image research, released during Mental Health Awareness Week 2019.

Executive Summary

New data on the extent of body image concerns across the UK, how body image impacts mental health, plus practical steps we can take as a nation, all wrapped up in this easy to read summary of the research. 

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What exactly is body image? How comfortable are we in our bodies? We begin to unravel the complex and very personal experience of body image.

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Body image in childhood

With new, unprecedented pressures facing this generation, we unpack how social media, family and friends can all play a role in how children think and feel about their bodies.

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Body image in adulthood

Advertising, relationships, the workplace and changes during pregnancy can continue to affect the way we see ourselves as adults.

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Body image in later life

Body image concerns are not exclusive to young people. A lifetime of experiences as well as ageing, retirement and loss can all contribute to our body image in later life.

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Body image and long-term health conditions

Physical health conditions such as cancer and chronic pain can all change the way we relate to our bodies as well as living with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.

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Body image and ethnic background

We look at how body image can vary across different ethnic backgrounds, cultural influences on body satisfaction, and the limitations of body image research in this area.

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Body image, sexual orientation and gender identity

We explore how body image differs across the LGBT community and highlight the impacts of stigma and discrimination.

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How can we protect, promote, and maintain body image?

Everyone has a right to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, We cover the ways we can all take action to foster a more inclusive and accepting environment. 

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Implications and recommendations for policy and action

We set out our priorities for regulation, policy and practice. This includes calling for diversity in media, training for healthcare professionals, compassionate and timely support for those in distress and better education and media literacy in schools.

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Individual actions

Actions we can take to improve how we feel about our bodies and help us to protect, promote and maintain a positive body image throughout our lives. 

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Recommended citation:  Mental Health Foundation. (2019). Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies. London: Mental Health Foundation.    
The following members of staff of the Mental Health Foundation contributed to this report by drafting, editing or providing feedback: Victoria Zamperoni, Jade Yap, Chiara Lombardo, Josefien Breedvelt, Adam Nice, Toni Giugliano, Jane Caro, Katrina Jenkins, Ruth Simmonds, Jolie Goodman, David Crepaz-Keay, Christine Burke, Julie Cameron, Sarah Tite, Richard Grange, Chris O’Sullivan, Lucy Thorpe, Antonis Kousoulis, Mark Rowland