More than half of young people regularly worry about how they look – with many admitting that they would do whatever it takes to look good, according to research
Some youngsters admit that they would go on a diet, take protein shakes or supplements or even resort to plastic surgery in order to change their appearance.
The findings, based on a poll of over 2,000 secondary school pupils, also reveal the impact of social media – with teenagers saying they spend hours preparing to take a picture to post online and use editing tools to change the way they look.
Overall, nearly eight in 10 (79%) said the way they look is important to them, with 52% of those questioned saying they regularly worry about their appearance, and just over a third (36%) saying they were willing to do whatever they needed to do to look good.
In addition, 57% said that they have dieted or would consider dieting to change their appearance – while a third (35%) have, or would be willing to take protein shakes or supplements.
One in 10 said they have had, or would consider plastic surgery.
The report, published by the Be Real Campaign, also found that nearly two thirds (63%) of young people say they make sure they look as good as possible in the photos they put online – with girls more likely to say this than boys.
Some youngsters told researchers that they edited images before posting them, or had friends that spent time putting on make-up before they took a picture.
The findings also showed that three in 10 young people say they avoid taking part in certain activities because they worry about how they look – this could involve sports lessons in school.
Denise Hatton, chief executive of the National Council of YMCAs in England and Wales, said: “The Be Real Campaign’s research released today shows how harmful body image anxiety can be for secondary school pupils as young as 11 years old.
“We’ve found evidence of young people not only isolating themselves from activities, potentially causing long-term physical or mental health difficulties, but also considering cosmetic surgery and extreme diets to improve how they believe they should look as a result of the body image ‘ideals’ they see in media and advertising.”
The research was undertaken by the YMCA with the poll conducted by EdComs. It questioned 2,018 UK young people aged 11 to 16.