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One in six girls and young women have missed school or work due to body image anxiety

The i logo The i 10/10/2019
Upset sisters Upset sisters

One in six girls and young women in Britain have missed school or work in the last year due to worries about their appearance, according to a new survey by children’s charity Plan International UK.

Released on International Day of the Girl, the poll of over 1,000 14-21 year-olds found that 89 per cent feel pressure to fit an ‘ideal’ face and body type, and 25 per cent feel ‘ashamed or disgusted’ by their body.

The charity said negative feelings about body image are holding girls back from fully participating in society and achieving their potential.

In the past 12 months, 17 per cent of girls and young women said they had missed school or work due to concerns about their appearance.

'It's affected my future'

A fifth (19 per cent) have avoided public speaking, and one in 10 (9 per cent) have not attended a job interview or have avoided participating in lessons.

A quarter of girls and young women (27 per cent) have not left the house, such as to go to the shop or for a walk, because of worries about their appearance.

Sarah, an 18 year old, from South Wales spoke about how body image anxiety had affected her.

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“I got bullied through all my years at school,” she said. “I was called fat because of my weight and I wore jumpers and jackets to cover up myself and my body.

“Eventually, I stopped going in - I didn’t get any GCSEs, and the bullying gave me anxiety and depression.

“It’s really affected my future - my education stopped simply because I didn’t feel comfortable.”

Gender inequality issue

a group of people walking down the street © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd Plan International UK is calling for society to recognise body image anxieties as a gender inequality issue that limits girls’ ability to achieve their potential, above and beyond the harmful impact it has on their perception of how they look.

The charity is asking members of the public to pledge to do one thing to encourage girls to reach their potential, without being held back by appearance worries.

This could be complimenting a friend, sister or daughter on who they are and not how they look, or doing something themselves which they have always avoided due to worries about their appearance.

Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International UK, said: “We know that girls and young women experience huge pressure on their body image in every area of life, from the images they see in the media to hurtful comments at school.

“But these new statistics show this is having a frightening impact on their futures, affecting their ability to take advantage of opportunities and, in some cases, preventing them from their basic rights to access education and earn a living.”

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