School children need compulsory body image lessons, say MPs
Published: 30th May 2012 06:08:40
All school children should take part in compulsory body image and self-esteem lessons, MPs have recommended.
The All Party Parliamentary group on body image made the case after its study found two out of three people in the UK are not happy with their body.
It also found girls as young as five now worry about how they look, while cosmetic surgery rates have increased by nearly 20% since 2008.
Media images of unrealistic bodies were said to be largely to blame.
The MPs said children were often reflecting their parents' own anxieties, as well as being bombarded by images in the media, advertising and celebrity culture of a stylised ideal that 95% of people would be physically unable to match.
They said body image was the main worry for one in five boys and one in three girls as young as 10 - who said it was the biggest cause of bullying.
The Reflections on Body Image report, published by MPs and the health charity Central YMCA following a three-month inquiry, found a growing body of evidence that body dissatisfaction in the UK is on the rise.
Body image dissatisfaction in the UK has reached an all-time high and the pressure to conform to an unattainable body ideal is wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of many people”
It was a key factor in health and relationship problems and low-self esteem. It was also shown to be a major block to progression at school and work.
Body dissatisfaction, the report showed, is a problem affecting all of society, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, body size or shape.
However, young people and children were found to be particularly vulnerable to anxiety over their bodies.
While evidence suggested that concerns were often picked up from parents, the peer group became a stronger influence by secondary school age.
Dieting was used by around half of girls and up to one third of boys to lose weight.
In response to the findings, members of the diet industry admitted people had "unrealistic expectations" about weight loss.
The inquiry - which heard from academics, charities, the public and other experts - also found that:
Recommendations made by the report aimed to change public perceptions and behaviour, and included:
The All Parliamentary Group's chairwoman, Jo Swinson MP, said body image dissatisfaction in the UK had "reached an all-time high."
"The pressure to conform to an unattainable body ideal is wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of many people."
Central YMCA chief executive Rosi Prescott also said there was something "seriously wrong in society when children as young as five are worrying about their appearance, based on the messages they are seeing all around them".
She added there was a collective responsibility change society's attitude toward body image, in order to "prevent damage to future generations".
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. School children need compulsory body image lessons, say MPs. [Online] (Updated 30 May 2012)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/1431731-School-children-need-compulsory-body-image-lessons-say-MPs [Accessed 13th May 2013]
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