Teenagers trade health for image

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 31st October 2011

School-aged girls are increasingly troubled by their self-image, with more than a third of those aged between 10 and 11 dieting to achieve their ideal body type, according to a new report out of the UK.

The study, undertaken by the Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU), shows teenage girls taking drastic measures to achieve their ideal body, an anxiety reinforced by a global culture of celebrity-worship. 

Of the 83,000 pupils interviewed, 56 per cent of 14-15 year old girls, 50 per cent of 12-13 year old girls and 32 per cent of 10-11 year old girls said they want to lose weight. This compares with 27 per cent of 14-15 year old boys, 34 per cent of 12-13 year old boys and 24 per cent of 10-11 year old boys who wanted to lose weight. Almost a third of girls in Year 10 skipped breakfast and 18 percent had also skipped lunch the day before. The proportion of young women skipping meals increased with age with almost two-thirds of 14- to 15-year-olds adopting measures to control their weight.

Of Year Six girls and boys questioned, 40 per cent said that they consumed no protein “on most days”. But around a quarter ate crisps, sweets or chocolate regularly.

UK newspaper The Independent, which broke the story, interviewed Dr Laura Wyness, a senior scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation.

Dr Wyness said:

 “Popular media has a large influence on young people’s body image, placing a great deal of pressure on obtaining the ‘ideal’ body shape. This often leads to young girls adopting unhealthy practices. These include smoking, skipping meals, especially breakfast, severely limiting foods perceived as fattening, such as red meat and dairy produce, which are important sources of protein, iron, zinc and calcium, and adopting very low energy, and therefore nutrient, diets.”


Meanwhile, children as young as 12 are drinking the equivalent of 19 glasses of wine a week, according to SHEU, which found that 4 per cent of the 12- to 13-year-olds surveyed had drunk 28 or more units of alcohol in the past week.