LIFESTYLE

Body Image Concerns Are Making English Children Among The Unhappiest In The World

28/08/2014 10:49 BST | Updated 28/08/2014 10:59 BST

Modern advertising and social media constantly bombard children with images of what they should and should not be, and a new report has revealed concerns over body image is making girls in England among the unhappiest in the world.

As part of the Good Childhood Report 2014, 16,000 children aged 10-13 from 11 countries and five continents were asked to answer questions relating to happiness.

The study, published by the Children’s Society, found that despite having some of the highest living standards, children in England ranked ninth, behind Romania, Brazil and Algeria and only ahead of South Korea and Uganda.

sad girl

The main concern of English children, particularly girls, was their appearance.

The survey found that 13% of English children were worried about the way they looked. One in five adolescent English girls and one in nine adolescent English boys said they had body image concerns.

Researchers recorded one 12-year-old participant saying: "People are judged on looks. Sometimes you feel like you can’t enjoy yourself unless you are pretty."

Another 12-year-old in the report said: "Guys go on about thigh gaps, but you can be skinny and not have one so it's hard."

Although girls tended to be more positive about their school lives than boys, body image concern made them have a lower level of wellbeing overall.

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Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, a representative from eating disorders charity Beat said: "The findings of the report are a sad reflection on the life of our young children today.

"We know that poor body image and low self esteem are key factors in the development of eating disorders, and that social and cultural pressures are strong in this area."

Beat says our "increasingly visual world" is putting more pressure on young girls.

"Children are surrounded every day by images that are difficult to ignore. The written word is losing out to images as the most powerful means of communication.

"A preoccupation with weight and shape is one of the key features of current popular culture- and it is a global phenomenon.

"The fascination with celebrities, their bodies, clothes and appearance has all increased the pressure that young people feel as they seek to establish their own identities - and typically at a time when their own bodies are growing and changing as they naturally mature and become adult."

Beat works in schools to give young people skills in media literacy - learning how to interpret images, understand their powerful influences, and how to be resilient to their potentially harmful aspects.

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