Body image fears fuelling rise in Childline calls

Body image

Fears young people are unduly concerned about their looks 

11th July 2018 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Body image concerns and mental health difficulties are fuelling a rise in the number of young people contacting Childline about eating disorders.

New NSPCC figures reveal that its Childline phone sevice provided 5,934 counselling sessions across the UK about eating disorders and eating problems.

That’s the equivalent of 16 a day, up 22% since 2016/17.

Childline counsellors dealt with 231 contacts from young people in Scotland about eating disorders and eating problems during the same period.

Almost nine in every 10 counselling sessions across the UK were with girls, including 148 counselling sessions with girls aged 10-11. 

Nearly one in six counselling sessions about eating problems mentioned anorexia, while one in ten mentioned bulimia, and almost a third mentioned negative or distorted body image.

One 15-year-old girl told Childline: “I compare myself to other people every day and how they have a better figure to me. I noticed that I was slightly bigger than some of the girls in my school and seeing people on social media didn’t help either. It has led to me watching weight loss videos and saving pictures of people who have the body I wish I had.” 

In addition, thousands of children contacting Childline about other mental health issues including suicidal feelings and self-harm also talked about eating disorders or eating problems, bringing the total number of counselling sessions where eating disorders or eating problems were mentioned in 2017/18 to 11,752. 

The NSPCC’s Are You There? campaign is calling on the UK Government to invest some of the £300million it has committed for children’s mental health services towards early support services such as Childline.

Leanne Ferries, Childline manager for the Aberdeen base said: “Young people tell us that they feel under pressure to look a certain way and live a certain life, and it’s worrying that we are seeing so many children contact us about eating disorders as a result, in some cases when they are still at primary school.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline founder and president added: “We must ask ourselves the reason for this dangerous increase? Perhaps it is because an obsession with body shape has been created, forcing young people to try to be as skinny as the unnaturally photoshopped images in the media. The fashion and beauty industries must also be aware of the vulnerable young people who aspire to what they see on social media.”

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at