More than 90% of young people in Australia have some concern about their body image
Research out today from Butterfly Foundation reveals a majority of young people are experiencing body dissatisfaction, significantly impacting all aspects of their lives.
For the first time in Australia, Butterfly has conducted research among 12- to 18-year-olds to better understand what they think and feel about their bodies, and what impact body dissatisfaction has on their lives. Butterfly’s Body Kind Youth Survey (BKYS) found that:
- Nearly half (45%) of young people are dissatisfied with the way their body looks
- Nearly 70% of young people said they have experienced appearance-related teasing, with 73% of these saying they’d experienced it at school
- Nearly two-thirds of young people say their body image stops them from doing physical activities.
Supported by nib foundation, the first-of-its-kind survey explored the body image experiences of over 1,600 young Australians. The survey found an incredible 90% of teenagers have some level of body image concern, with more than one in three (38%) very or extremely concerned. Females, gender diverse youth and those in the LGBTQIA+ community reported the highest levels of body dissatisfaction.
The research also showed that there was a relationship between social media and young peoples’ feelings of dissatisfaction with their bodies, including a desire to be thinner, as well as poorer body appreciation and greater life disengagement. 64% of kids across all genders also expressed a desire to be ‘more muscular’.
“We know that body image concerns can start early and increase during the teenage years, and this report highlights just how high body dissatisfaction and body image concerns are in young people,” said Helen Bird, Manager of Education Services at Butterfly.
There could not be a more compelling rationale for the need for prevention work. It’s why Butterfly Foundation has been working in prevention and early intervention for 17 years, and continues to deliver programs like Butterfly Body Bright and Body Kind, also partly funded by nib foundation, to give children and young people strategies and tools to support a positive body image.
Prior to Butterfly’s Body Kind Youth Survey, there was little knowledge of the reality of body satisfaction in young people in Australia. The research results support the critical work Butterfly does with young people across the country, both to prevent serious body and eating issues, but to help young people thrive socially, emotionally and physically.
The survey also found:
- One in two (50%) young people said that how they view their body has prevented them at some point from raising their hand in class
- Nearly half (45%) of young people said their body image had stopped them from going to the beach quite a bit, or all the time
- Over a third (37%) admitted that their body image stopped them from participating in physical activity or sport quite a bit or all of the time
- More than a third (36%) confirmed their body image stopped them from giving an opinion or standing up for themselves.
Jacqueline, 23 based in NSW knows the impact of body dissatisfaction during school all too well , “I found my high schooling experience incredibly isolating. I went to an all-girls private school, where you were judged quite intensely. I felt an unbelievable pressure to look a certain way in my school uniform. Living in a larger body, my school uniform was not the standard size, it always had to be ordered in. I faced scrutiny, teenage girls can be very harsh and multiple teachers did not know the proper empathetic way to approach a situation with me… I felt like an inconvenience.”
When it comes to the impact of social media, Helen said “It is concerning that, even though social media is a significant contributor to body dissatisfaction, it is the preferred way for young people to access body image information. We really need to empower young people with social media skills so they can identify helpful not harmful body image content online,”.
She said social media organisations have a responsibility to use platforms for good, so they are part of the solution to support young people and their body image.
“We can’t leave this to young people on their own. Social media platforms really need to broaden their understanding of what is harmful content and have stricter guidelines and policies to reduce and remove misinformation relating to dieting, weight and health. Young people told us this, loud and clear. ”The inaugural BKYS was supported by nib foundation. “The results show just how susceptible young people are to body image issues and it starts from such a young age with 76% of 12 year olds surveyed reporting some level of body image concerns,” said Amy Tribe, nib foundation Executive Officer.
“Before this, there was no national data in Australia that represented the body image experiences of young people in this age group. It’s why we’re going to support the next survey, so that Butterfly Foundation can continue to track the attitudes of young people relating to body image and provide them and their families with the best evidenced-based tools and resources to tackle body image concerns,” Mrs Tribe said.
More information and to full results of the Butterfly Body Kind Youth Survey
About the research
Released by Butterfly Foundation
Overview: This research was conducted by Butterfly Foundation with n=1635 young Australians aged between 12 – 18 years old, through a self-completed ethics approved online survey This research took place in September – November 2022. The data was first released to the public in May 2023.
Ph: 0451 837 044
Edelman for Butterfly Foundation
Ph: 0408 089 181
About Butterfly Foundation
Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. Butterfly is on a mission to create a more ‘Body Kind’ Australia, where young people grow up treating their own bodies and all bodies with respect and kindness. The foundation has school prevention and intervention programs established for both primary and secondary school to help kids thrive and learn to love their bodies from a young age.
About Butterfly Body Bright & Butterfly Body Kind
For more information on Butterfly’s school-based programs, click through to Butterfly Body Bright (for primary school children) or Butterfly Body Kind (for upper primary and secondary school children).