Almost Half of the UK Experience Low Body Confidence

Ellen Lees
By Ellen Lees,
updated on Jul 19, 2019

Almost Half of the UK Experience Low Body Confidence

Research reveals that more than 50% of women in the UK say they are not body confident, with 41% saying it negatively impacts their mental health, social life and relationships

The study, by social enterprise charity Better, surveyed 2,000 people across the UK to gain insight into the real impact a person’s body confidence can have on everyday life, including social life, mental health, relationships and even career progression.

Findings revealed that 51% of women and 36% of men are not confident in their own body image, with 69% saying this negatively impacts their mental health and wellbeing. When it comes to age, body worries are felt by all age groups however, 57% of 18 to 24 year-olds said low body confidence impacts their mental health, while the 35 to 44 age group were found to be the least confident.

Better revealed that the age group with the highest body confidence is the over 55s. Looking deeper at the responses, it appears that this body confidence in over 55s comes from “a shift in mentality and learning to accept the things you cannot change.”

Looking at what is causing the nations’ lack of body confidence, it’s no surprise to see that social media is considered a high contributor. Social media plays a particular role in the lives of our young people, where 35% of 18 to 24 year olds said that this had the biggest impact on their body confidence.

As well as social media, pressure from peers and film and television were found to be the key contributors behind the UK’s low body confidence.

The impact body confidence issues are having on our everyday lives varies for all of us. While we will all have moments of low body confidence, for some, this can be devastating. It can stop us from living our lives to the fullest.

Findings from the survey revealed that body confidence issues were having a hugely negative impact on many respondents, with 36% admitting their love life and social life were the most affected. Mental health comes into play too, with 41% of women and 28% of men reporting having struggled with their mental health because of their low body confidence.

For 18 to 24 year olds, low body confidence takes its toll on their mental health more than any other aspect of their lives (57%), followed by their love life (54%), social life (52%) and career progression (32%).

As part of the study, respondents were asked: Has low body confidence ever stopped you from doing any of the following activities?

  • Wearing an outfit/item of clothing (37%)
  • Taking part in physical activity (22%)
  • Going on a date (14%)
  • Attending an event (14%)
  • Going on holiday (13%)
  • Public speaking (13%)
  • Applying/attending a job interview (7%)

Almost 50% of women said that low body confidence has affected what they wear, with many reporting feelings of anxiety when faced with the thought or expectation of having to wear a swimming costume, bikini or revealing outfit.

The impact of body confidence and how it affects us may change due to what’s going on in our lives at the time, including pressures from work or other stressors, and illness - be it our own or the health of a loved one. But however it affects us, this data indicates that many people are missing out on opportunities due to low body confidence.

The study found that body image issues are more damaging to women’s mental health, while more men are reporting their low body confidence stalling their career progression. For all of us though, our low body confidence is affecting our love lives and relationships, with many respondents admitting to skipping out on a date with a potential love interest.

While social media is said to be a major contributor to peoples’ body confidence issues, it can also be a place of good. There are people who are sharing their experiences, stories, thoughts and beliefs on how to build body confidence and feel comfortable in your own skin.

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• HOW DO YOU LET GO OF WORRYING ABOUT WEIGHT GAIN? • ⁣ Which I would be so bold as to say is one of the biggest fears of all! ⁣ ⁣ Why? Because we live in a society that praises and thinness and constantly tells us that:⁣ THIN = happiness, success, attractiveness and health. ⁣ FAT = Failure, depressed, weak, ugly, unhealthy. ⁣ ⁣ So of course we’re terrified of weight gain - we have been conditioned to be. ⁣ By diet culture, by media, by news headlines and by messages we have picked up from our loved ones since we were a young age. ⁣ ⁣ BUT, when we unpack the weight science (Body Respect by Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor is a MUST read for this) - we start to bust the myths around these inherited beliefs. ⁣ Because a lot of what we think are facts are *beliefs* - and so by examining the evidence and employing some critical thinking we start to realise that body fat is not necessarily the devil!! ⁣ ⁣ For me, having a deeper understanding of the evidence and realising how damn brilliant my body is at regulating my weight when I trust it, has been a game changer. ⁣ ⁣ I’ve also had to examine my own internalised Fat Phobia and call myself out. ⁣ Key changes I’ve made: ⁣ * Following loads of different people & different body types - realising people come in all shapes and sizes on not just one narrow ideal. ⁣ ⁣ * Buying bigger clothes, as my small ones would make me feel physical discomfort. Clothes that fit me well make me think about my body less. ⁣ ⁣ * Realise I am more than a body, and it’s just a home for my gifts and talents that have far greater value than my appearance. ⁣ ⁣ Hope this helps you on your path - it has twists and turns, and diet culture will make you second guess yourself, but accepting (not necessarily loving) your ever changing and evolving body is possible 💛. ⁣ #rejectingdietculture #bodyacceptance #weightgain #bodyimage #intuitiveeating #haes #fitness

A post shared by Tally Rye (@tallyrye) on

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Loving @onthebeachholidays “this bikini can” campaign celebrating all bodies and wanting to help change the fact that 50% of women avoid beach holidays for fear of being in a bikini ☹️ 🙌☀️So here’s a picture of Our 5 different bodies unapologetically unique, unedited and living life! 💙🙏 I love that a holiday provider is running this campaign because truth be told when you go on holiday this is what you see. DIFFERENT bodies, different shapes, sizes, colours and ages. We spend so much time worrying about the adverts with one body type that is not representative of uk average that we forget the reality of what we see in the flesh!! Let’s respect lift up and celebrate all bodies so that everybody can enjoy the summer as they deserve too! ☀️ #eatingdisorderrecovery #wellbeing #celebrateyou

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And earlier this year, Channel 4 released Naked Beach, a short series co-presented by Natasha Devon, where people were invited to spend time abroad with eight inspiring people - of all shapes and sizes - to work on their body confidence. Following the programme, Natasha and the team created a series of free, downloadable body image resources for teachers.

Molly Forbes, one of the eight body confident hosts on the programme, spoke with Happiful about the show and the impact body confidence is having on our nation.“I think we place a lot of moral value upon health in this country when the truth is, you can’t actually tell much about a person’s mental or physical health just by looking at them,” she said.

“We know that body image issues can affect not only someone's mental health but their physical health too - and we definitely saw this with some of the guests on the show. When you feel bad about your body you’re less likely to do things that feel good for it, so that may be over-exercising or not exercising at all, for example, or eating in a disordered way.

“If we get away from this idea that health only looks one way and placing so much emphasis on the link between health and aesthetics, I think the benefits would be huge both for ourselves as individuals and society as a whole. We’d be more likely to move our body for joy and stick to it, more likely to eat in a way that feels intuitive and enjoy food - but also less likely to link a person's worth as a human and a member of society to their health.”

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It is not OK that ANYONE feels shit about their body. Every day my DMs are full of people who feel like they aren’t enough, like they can’t enjoy their life to the full, like they need to put all their energy or their money into changing their body in order to be accepted, or happy, or satisfied with their life. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ From teen girls who want to have the Kardashian curves in order to wear the bodycon dress, to new mums who feel ashamed of their C Section scar or stretchmarks, to mums of 11 year old boys who are already trying to work out, to women and men who’ve been to the doctors for a sore throat and made to step on the scales and then shamed over being a higher weight and told every single health issue they’ve ever had is because they’re in a bigger body. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ There is no such thing as the perfect body. There is no one single form of beauty. We are not all meant to look the same. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We are all more than our bodies, but you know what? Our bodies are BLOODY WELL GOOD ENOUGH! For me, liking myself means liking all that I am inside AND outside. The parts of my body that I was always taught not to like are beautiful, and valid, and worthy of love. Just as yours are too - WHATEVER those parts are. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It’s about respect, for ourselves and each other. For everything that’s on the inside and everything that’s on the outside too. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ENOUGH with not feeling enough. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bodyimage #bodylove #bodyconfidence #loveyourselffirst #selflovematters ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

A post shared by Molly Forbes (@mollyjforbes) on

There is so much to body confidence and what you can do to improve how you feel about your body. It may be that you need to take a look at the media you are consuming and the conversations being had around you, and instead surround yourself with inspiring, feel-good content and people that make you feel happy and proud to be you.

That said, there are many things that can contribute to low body confidence and body image issues, which cannot be solved by updating your social media. It may be deeper than that and you may benefit from speaking to someone - whether that be a professional counsellor or coach, someone who inspires you or someone you trust.

If you would like to speak to a counsellor about your low body confidence and/or mental health, visit Counselling Directory. You can also search for therapists in your area by entering your location in the box below.

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