Youth Charity's Study Reveals Pressures On Young People To Reach ‘Unobtainable’ Body Perfection

Maurice Richmond
By Maurice Richmond,
updated on Jul 23, 2018

Youth Charity's Study Reveals Pressures On Young People To Reach ‘Unobtainable’ Body Perfection

The YMCA has raised concerns that youngsters are under increased pressure to conform to 'unreachable beauty standards'

The youth charity carried out an extensive study, which saw researchers interview more than 1,000 youngsters aged between 11 and 16. A staggering 62% of 15 to 16 year-olds reported they felt heightened expectations surrounding their appearance, and that it owed to social media.

YMCA found that airbrushed photos of celebrities and their 'perfectly preened bodies' are damaging young people - with 58% of respondents to its survey identifying celebrity culture as their main influence.

It also found the majority of 10 year-olds own a smartphone, and that they are experiencing increased pressure to appear 'perfect' online.

Denise Hatton, the chief executive for YMCA England and Wales, has called for the issue to be tackled, and for us to 'celebrate our real selves.'

She said: "We've all been guilty of only posting our most flattering pictures on social media. While there's nothing wrong with wanting to show yourself from your best angle, it's important that we still like ourselves when we're not looking our best, which is probably the majority of the time for most of us."

Ms Hatton continued: "Today's beauty standard is completely unobtainable, leading us to constantly feel bad about our bodies and looks. This is particularly the case for young people and it can have serious effects on their mental and physical wellbeing.

"It's time to take back control of how we feel about our bodies and celebrate our real self so that everyone can feel confident in their body this summer and beyond."

The charity has teamed up with Dove, the health and beauty products company, for its Be Real Campaign, which is calling on signatories to its body image pledge, IPledgeToBeReal.

It is urging social media users to stop editing their pictures and to hold brands and organisations accountable for failing to promoting healthy body images and diversity.

Elsewhere, the headteacher of a leading independent school has hit out at reality TV dating show Love Island for its negative impact on expectations of male behaviour.

Andrew Halls, head of King’s College School, in Wimbledon, wrote to the Sunday Times, lamenting the 'impossible images of perfection' featured on the ITV 2 show.

Mr Halls believed such programmes are 'eating away at boys' self-worth.'

He writes: "Today's expectations of male behaviour are confusing for boys: in schools we try to teach them to value kindness and respect, but reality TV shows such as Love Island suggest the most important goal in life is to look like a male model.

"This can lead to an obsession with going to the gym and taking diet supplements which is far more common than many realise. George Orwell celebrated English people for their 'mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners' but the world of Love Island is one where physical defect is a form of curse.

"No wonder the ad breaks are full of enticements to invest in cosmetic surgery."

To find confidential mental health support in your area, visit Counselling Directory.

For information on Dove's campaign, visit the IPledgeToBeReal website.

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