LIFESTYLE

Girls As Young As Six Are Dieting Due To Worries Over Body Image, Eye-Opening Report Finds

07/05/2015 10:21 BST | Updated 07/05/2015 10:59 BST

Back in the day, our six-year-old worries were usually centred around what we were having for tea, who our best friend was or how long we could play out in the garden after school.

But now a shocking report has revealed that girls as young as six are dieting due to body image fears.

This comes just days after a global campaign launched to raise awareness of negative body image in girls.

primary school

The study, which was conducted by Leeds Beckett University, found that children as young as six and seven years old (Year 2 in the UK school system) are suffering dissatisfaction with their body shape.

The research looked at the association of psychological wellbeing, including dieting behaviours and body image perception, as well as BMI in 301 primary school children from Year 2 and Year 4.

It found that girls had higher body shape dissatisfaction scores and had a higher desire to be thinner than boys.

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Children who were categorised as overweight also had higher body shape dissatisfaction scores on average than "normal weight" children and were more likely to diet.

Surprisingly, younger children aged six and seven were also more likely to diet than their older peers aged eight and nine.

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Professor Sahota, who led the study, concluded: “The results suggested that body shape dissatisfaction and dietary restraint behaviours may be­gin in children as young as six and seven years old, and there is an association with increased BMI."

"Obesity prevention programmes need to consider psy­chological wellbeing and ensure that it is not compromised.

"Further research should be conducted on how interventions can help improve psychological wellbe­ing in this age group.”

Meaghan Christian, who co-authored the study, said: "I think this shows that children are picking up on body image problems at a younger age than ever before. It is not something you’d want six year olds to be worried about."

A spokesperson from eating disorder charity Beat added: "Throwaway comments can have a lasting effect and we should challenge ourselves not to make negative comments about shape, size and avoid conversations around dieting within earshot of our children."