Belfast Telegraph

Third of Northern Ireland adults in despair over body image

Eight per cent of adults in Northern Ireland have deliberately hurt themselves because of concerns about their body image, according to the survey (stock photo)
Eight per cent of adults in Northern Ireland have deliberately hurt themselves because of concerns about their body image, according to the survey (stock photo)
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

One in eight adults here has had suicidal thoughts or feelings due to concerns about their body image, a survey reveals today.

The online poll, published to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, shows that just under a third of adults have felt anxious because of concerns about their appearance.

The report - Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies - also found that just over one in three adults has felt depressed because of their body image, while 20% have felt "shame" because of their body image over the last year.

Eight per cent of adults in Northern Ireland have deliberately hurt themselves because of concerns about their body image, according to the survey.

YouGov surveyed 4,505 people aged 18-plus in the UK, including 104 here.

The survey found that body image issues affected more women than men.

One in 10 women said they had self-harmed or "deliberately hurt themselves" because of their body image.

That is compared to 4% of men.

The survey also found large numbers of men can be affected, with a quarter of UK adult men saying they have felt depressed because of concerns about their body image.

The survey asked people about their experiences with social media and advertising. One in five of all UK adults and 46% of 18-24-year-olds said images on social media had caused them to worry about their body image.

Nearly six in 10 adults think the UK Government should do more to protect the public from the presentation or use of unhealthy body images in advertising and social media.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Mark Rowland said: "Our survey indicates that many people in Northern Ireland are struggling with concerns about their body image.

"For some this is potentially very severe, with people saying they have self-harmed or had suicidal thoughts and feelings."

The foundation calls on the Government and relevant industries to take action, including regulation of social media and more powers for the Advertising Standards Authority. Mr Rowland added: "Our survey underscores how commercial, social media and advertising pressures on body image are contributing to mental health problems for millions of people. This social harm has been allowed to develop largely unchecked.

"While there have been some positive initiatives, social media companies have frequently been unwilling to take the necessary steps to protect their users from harmful content.

"That is why today we are calling on the UK Government to tackle the promotion of unhealthy or idealised body-image images as a specific part of its policy in this area.

"New codes of practice should include an expectation that social media companies must take practical steps to ensure that the content they promote does not exacerbate body image concerns.

"This could be enforced by the new independent regulator, which is already part of the Government proposals in the Online Harms White Paper."

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, contact the Samaritans free on 116 123.

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