Body image makes top 4 list of concerns for young people – could EC be the answer?

by Freya Lucas

December 02

For the eighth consecutive year, body image concerns have made the list of the top four issues that worry young people, Mission Australia’s National Youth survey has found. Could establishing a healthy body image in early childhood (EC) be the answer? The Butterfly Foundation for eating disorders says yes. 

 

The 2019 survey found that at least one in four young people have “serious body image concerns”, while other mental health issues such as coping with stress and school or study problems also had high ratings.

 

Notably higher proportions of females (42.8 per cent, compared with 14.5 per cent of males) were “extremely or very” concerned with body image, and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females reported body image as the second most concerning personal issue, ahead of mental health.

 

Butterfly Foundation CEO Kevin Barrow says the results from the survey are “very concerning” and haven’t reduced at all from previous years.

 

Serious health ramifications could result if action was not taken to “challenge fundamental belief structures that are translating into nationwide body shape and size stigma,” he said. 

 

Poor body image can contribute to impaired mental and physical health, lower social functionality and poor lifestyle choices, Mr Barrow noted, saying that Australian’s need to acknowledge the complexity of the problem and each play their part as individuals.

 

“We also need to pay equal attention to the increase in concerns for young people when it comes to their mental health. People who are dissatisfied with their body image are at higher risk of developing serious mental illness including eating disorders,” Mr Barrow said.

 

The increasing trend in young people’s levels of concern about their body image (from 26.5 per cent in 2015 to 31 per cent in 2019) highlighted year on year by Mission Australia’s annual survey gives “compelling rationale for the need to address negative body image thinking in all ages of a child’s life, particularly before negative body image thinking takes root,” The Butterfly Foundation said. 

 

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues should contact Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 or support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au. For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14.. 

 

To follow the work of The Butterfly Foundation please connect with them via Twitter (@BFoundation) or Facebook (@thebutterflyfoundation). 

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