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Negative body image rife in young women

A study by new eating disorder charity The Succeed Foundation and the University of the West of England (UWE) has revealed alarming levels of negative body image among young women.

The survey of 320 women, average age 24.49 years, studying at 20 British universities in March 2011, found that 93% had had negative thoughts about their appearance during the past week, while 31% had negative thoughts several times a day.

The vast majority (79%) of the women surveyed reported that they would like to lose weight, despite the fact that 78.37% were actually within the underweight or “normal” weight ranges. Only 3% said that they would like to gain weight.

Nearly half (46%) of the women surveyed have been ridiculed or bullied because of their appearance.

And 39% of the women surveyed reported that if money wasn’t a concern they would have cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance. Of the 39% who said they would have cosmetic surgery, 76% desired multiple surgical procedures. 5% of the women surveyed have already had cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance.

The survey conducted by Dr Phillippa Diedrichs from the Centre for Appearance Research at UWE also discovered 30% of women would trade at least one year of their life to achieve their ideal body weight and shape. The breakdown was: 16% would trade 1 year of their life; 10% would trade 2-5 years of their life; 2% would trade 6-10 years of their life; 1% would trade 21 years or more of their life.

A further 26% of the women surveyed were willing to sacrifice at least one of the following:

·         £5000 from their annual salary (13%)
·         A promotion at work (8%)
·         Achieving a first class honours degree (6%)
·         Spending time with their partner (9%)
·         Spending time with their family (7%)
·         Spending time with their friends (9%)
·         Their health (7%)

When asked which celebrity has the perfect body Kelly Brook came top of the list.

In response to the results of the survey, The Succeed Foundation is launching The Succeed Body Image Programme in UK universities in Spring 2011. "This is a scientifically supported programme that aims to improve body image and prevent the onset of eating disorders," the foundation said in a press release.

Body image was also the subject of an exhibition by young photographers in Bristol. The exhibition by NLarge Photography is based at the Knowle West Media Centre and was commissioned by the National Osteoporosis Society and Body Gossip, a campaign to collect real people’s body stories.

The Succeed Foundation

University of the West of England (UWE)

Centre for Appearance Research at UWE

NLarge Photography

Knowle West Media Centre

National Osteoporosis Society

Body Gossip


Bill Heaney. Spring 2011. Online exclusive

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