Teenagers suffer from body image issues

Up to 70% of young female teenagers say they feel pressurised to look good for other people. Positive body image ‘rapidly declines’ throughout teenage years, with negative body image ‘considerably more prevalent’ amongst girls than boys.   These are just some  of the findings of the recently published Report on Young People’s Body Image, recently launched by the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, TD.

The survey concluded that body image is a burning issue for young people in Ireland with 77% of respondents ranking body image as being important to them.

43% of those surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with their body image. Many indulge in self-harm, excessive diets, plastic surgery – all in the search to improve their body image.

These are very worrying findings.  The pressure young people feel today to look good is huge.  Teenage girls in particular are hugely influenced by what they see in the media including models air-brushed to within an inch of their life to ‘sexy celebrities’ gracing our tv screens any night of the week.

Included in the survey recommendations are for schools to incorporate body image programmes into the mainstream curriculum.  This is something we have been advocating for many years. 

Many schools, recognising the challenges for students, have engaged Image Matters to speak to students on personal development including personal image, personal grooming, body language, interview preparation etc. 
The central theme of these presentations has always been to instil and boost confidence into teenagers and to emphasise the following:

– to be happy with their own self-image;
– do not compare – each person is a unique individual;
– re-enforce the beauty within – it is not the visual image that counts;
– development of the confidence within;
– healthy eating for good physical and mental health.

Students have always loved these programmes, welcoming the opportunity to focus on themselves whilst having the opportunity to raise issues outside of main-stream learning.  Unfortunately, due to cut-backs all round, many schools are not in a position to fund these programmes.  Providing students with any help and advice to boost self-confidence and self-esteem, and putting into context the whole ‘body-beautiful’ issue is essential to developing, healthy and grounded young men and women.

We will continue to make representations.  Memo to Deputy Fitzgerald!

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