Young Scots ashamed of the way they look

Body image

A study released to mark Mental Health Awareness Week has shown the insecurities young people have around their bodies

14th May 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

One in five youngsters feel ashamed of the way they look, a charity poll has revealed.

A Mental Health Foundation Scotland study of nearly 400 young people aged between 10 and 19 was commissioned by the charity to examine the impact of body image issues on mental health to the mark the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019.

The findings follow on new figures revealed yesterday (13 May) that one in seven Scottish adults had experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of their body image.

The poll also found that a third (33%) of young people have felt worried and over a quarter have felt upset (26%) because of concerns about their Body Image.

One in seven young people (15%) said they had stopped eating or restricted their diet to try and feel better about their body image. Meanwhile just over one in ten (11%) said that their body image had stopped them from going to school or college, and over a quarter (26%) said it had stopped them from taking part in sports. 

In response to these findings, the Scottish Government has announced a new expert group that will develop a Charter on Healthy Body Image for young people, define what positive body image means and develop options for how professionals can support healthy body image, including in schools.

MHF Scotland will join Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey when she visits the Girl Guides today (Tuesday 14 May) to announce the full remit of the new advisory group.

Julie Cameron, head of programmes at Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “Our poll has uncovered that hundreds of thousands of young people across Scotland are struggling with concerns 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 the survey that teenagers are identifying images on social media as a key factor that makes them worry about their body image. Conversations with friends also have a major role in causing young people to worry.”

The charity’s 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 the mental health for thousands of young people, and calls for immediate action across all aspects of society to safeguard the health of teenagers as they grow up.

Just under a third of young people (32%) reported that images they’d seen on social media had made them worry about the way they look, with one in seven (15%) saying they had edited photos of themselves to change their appearance.

Cameron added: “Action starts in our families and homes with how we talk about our bodies and eating, but we also need more regulation of advertising which promotes 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.”

“We’re delighted that the Scottish Government has responded promptly to our report. We welcome the announcement of an expert group and the development of a charter on achieving a healthy and positive body image. We hope that the new group will lead to the creation of useful resources for teachers and other frontline professionals and help to raise awareness about the impact of body image on our mental health”

The Mental Health Foundation has run Mental Health Awareness Week for the last 19 years with a focus on tackling stigma and preventing mental health problems before they happen or before they get worse when they already exist.