MPs in U.K. have recommended that all school children should take part in compulsory body image and self-esteem lessons. It comes after an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on body image heard evidence that more than half of the public has a negative body image.
The MP’s released the Reflections on Body Image report after a three-month inquiry, involving an online consultation and oral evidence given to the cross-party group. The inquiry was conducted between 24 November 2011 and 24 February 2012.
Among other recommendations was a review into whether the Equality Act 2010 should be amended to include appearance-related discrimination, which would be put on the same legal basis as race and sexual discrimination.
Under the current act, people can be prosecuted for verbal abuse, if it is considered to be serious enough. If this was amended, it would be an offence to harass someone because of their appearance, for example by drawing attention to their weight.
APPG chairwoman, Jo Swinson MP, said there was a definite problem; with body image and that has serious consequences.
The inquiry found evidence that suggested body dissatisfaction in the UK was on the rise. Children often reflected their parents; own body-related anxieties, the evidence suggested, while appearance is the greatest cause of bullying in schools.
Body dissatisfaction, the report said, is a problem that affects people regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, body size or shape. However, the evidence suggested young people and children were particularly vulnerable to anxiety over their bodies.
Parents were one of the main influences on children – but peer groups became a stronger influence by secondary school age. About half of girls and up to a third of boys have dieted to lose weight, the report said.
More than half of British people have a negative body image, a study by the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, quoted by the report, found.
The inquiry – which heard from academics, magazine editors, company chief executives, the public, and other experts – also heard that:
Wiping out dieting could stop 70% of eating disorders
More than 95% of people on diets regain the weight they lose
1.6 million people in the UK have eating disorders
Up to one in five cosmetic surgery patients could suffer from body dysmorphic disorder
One in three men would sacrifice a year of life to achieve their ideal body
One in five people have been victimised because of their weight
The report made a series of recommendations, including:
Central YMCA chief executive Rosi Prescott said: “It is clear there is something seriously wrong in society when children as young as five are worrying about their appearance.”