Over a quarter of children under 10 have been bullied over their weight, fuelling a dieting epidemic affecting those as young as seven, a study has revealed.
The survey of 1,000 young people aged seven to 18 found that 28% of children under 10 have been bullied over their weight. As many as 40% of this age group admit to worrying about their size with a quarter considering themselves overweight.
Some 37% of under-10s weigh themselves regularly while almost a quarter admit they have been on a diet in the past year. More than one in four (26%) say they have even skipped a meal in the hope of losing weight.
The poll reveals that bullying as well as the pressures of living in a body-obsessed culture are driving children to take extreme measures to tackle their weight anxieties, rather than a healthy approach of eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
Over a third (38%) of children under 10 say they are influenced by a “diet obsessed society”.
The findings become increasingly stark as the children get older and body anxieties intensify. As many as 44% of the 11-13 age group say they have been the victim of bullying over their size.
Some 61% of this group confess they worry about their weight while 45% have been on a diet and over three quarters (77%) weigh themselves regularly.
Of all the children surveyed one in seven say they are on a constant diet. More than one in four admit they have even visited anorexia websites with 5% doing so on a regular basis.
More than half have heard of people making themselves sick after eating to lose weight while 16% think laxatives are an effective way to lose weight.
The survey by Onepoll and Youngpoll also revealed that more than half of girls want to be a size 10 or smaller when they are older.
Despite the growing obsession with diets among children, obesity rates continue to soar. Last month the NHS revealed that over a third of children aged 10 and 11 are overweight or obese when they leave primary school, reinforcing the notion that a healthy approach to diet and exercise is essential.
The survey was commissioned for the programme, Dying To Be Thin: Tonight, which was aired last night (4 January 2012).