Minister Fitzgerald publishes Survey on Young People’s Body Image
At the launch of 'How We See It: Report of a Survey on Young People's Body Image, L to R; Arsalan Ahmad - Dail na nOg Council and Laois Comhairle na nOg, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Angela O'Connell, University College Cork, Michael O hOgain - Dail n nOg Council; Clare Comhairle na nOg and Kaila Dunne Dail na nOg Council; Limerick City Comhairle na nOg.
Monday 15th October 2012
- Irish teenagers are more sensitive to concerns over body-image that in other countries.
Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has today launched ‘How We See It: Report of a Survey on Young People’s Body Image’. The Minister was joined by young people at the Clock Tower on Marlborough Street to launch the report.
This survey was carried out directly on foot of a key recommendation from Dáil na nÓg 2010, At that Assembly, the young delegates considered the importance of body image to teenagers’ mental health; and noting the lack of national data on teenagers’ body image; decided that this was an issue worth researching.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “I think that the fact that 2,156 teenagers from Comhairle na nÓg all over Ireland completed this survey gives it a significant validity.”
The Survey found that body image is a burning issue for young people in Ireland, with 77% of participants ranking body image as important to them. 57% of the young people surveyed expressed some level of satisfaction with their body image, which means 43% were dissatisfied;
The report also contains a number of international comparisons. For example, in Australia only 32% of young people surveyed identified body image as a major concern for them
The Survey also found that almost 2 in 3 participants say they feel pressurised to look good for other people. More than half say that comparing themselves with others impacts negatively on their body image and that their body image interferes with their participation in activities such as swimming, dating and putting photographs on Facebook.
Responding to the findings Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Having conducted this Survey; and having found how Irish teenagers are more sensitive to concerns over body-image than in other countries, I think there is an onus on all of us to understand this survey and its detailed findings”.
“Growing up is never easy. But for some young people it can prove particularly tough. It is clear that for many young people concerns over their body image can be a source of much stress and pressure.
International studies repeatedly stress the serious social and health issues associated with negative body image, such as eating disorders, use of artificial supplements, interpersonal relationship problems, excessive exercise, withdrawal from participation and being subjected to teasing and bullying.”
“We must all be open to these concerns and we must all work to promote positive body image awareness, in particular in response to the ongoing policy debate surrounding bullying and youth mental health.”
Other findings from the Survey include:
- Comparison with others ranks as the most negative influence on girls’ body image.
- Bullying is identified as the most negative influence on boys’ body image.
- Positive body image rapidly declines throughout the adolescent years. In this survey, 15-year-olds are least satisfied with their body image.
- 85% of the girls in the survey put time into their appearance compared with 54% of boys.
- 60% of all participants say that they feel pressurised to look good for other people. Girls (70%) are far more likely to say this than boys (46%).
- Almost twice as many girls (52%) as boys (29%) exercised to control their weight, with four times as many boys (50%) as girls (12%) using exercise to build muscle.
- Girls are twice as likely as boys not to take enough exercise to stay healthy, while boys are more than twice as likely as girls to feel that they take more exercise than is healthy.
- Although positive body image is higher among boys at every age, this survey highlights instances of excessive exercise and use of body-building supplements among some teenage boys.
Recommendations from survey participants include:
- the need for a national positive body image awareness campaign aimed at teenagers; and
- the role of schools in
- incorporating body image into the mainstream curriculum;
- making school sports less traditional, narrow and male-oriented;
- having regular talks on personal development; and
- providing healthy food options in canteens and vending machines.
Addressing the finding that bullying is the most negative influence on boy’s body image, Micheál O hÓgáin (Dáil na nÓg Council and Clare Comhairle na nÓg) said, “boys who are overweight frequently get slagged, which is seen as just a bit of craic. This slagging can be very upsetting, as is clear from the evidence in this survey”.
Arsalan Ahmad (Dáil na nÓg Council and Laois Comhairle na nÓg) referred to the finding that 85% of girls put time and effort into their appearance. “I notice that girls of 14 and 15 wear a huge amount of make-up and get a lot of piercings and this diminishes as they get older.”
Referring to the fact that body image interferes with taking part in activities, Kaila Dunne (Dáil na nÓg Council and Limerick City Comhairle na nÓg) said: “when I was in Primary School all the girls in my class loved swimming. When we got to secondary school, almost no-one wanted to do the swimming class and every week, girls had notes to get out of going swimming”.