Five-year-olds now worry about size
More than half the British public suffers from a negative body image, an inquiry by MPs has been told.
The problem is so acute that girls as young as five now worry about their size and appearance, with children in danger of picking up their parents' body-related anxieties, their report said.
Cosmetic surgery rates have increased by nearly 20% since 2008 and the rise was said to be fuelled by advertising and "irresponsible" marketing ploys, the cross-party group of MPs was told.
According to Reflections on Body Image, co-authored by the MPs and health and education charity Central YMCA, negative body image was seen as an underlying cause of health and relationship problems, a key contributor to low self-esteem and a major barrier to participation in school and progression at work.
Appearance is also the greatest cause of bullying in schools, evidence suggested.
The report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image after a three-month public inquiry, identified a growing amount of evidence that body image dissatisfaction was on the increase, with the issue seen to be one affecting all of society regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, body size or shape.
Children and adolescents were seen to be more vulnerable to body image concerns however.
Around half of girls and up to one third of boys have dieted to lose weight and children and young people with body image dissatisfaction were less likely to engage in learning and participation in school, the report said.
Parents were identified as one of the main influences on children but by secondary school age, the peer group was seen to become a more important influence.
The inquiry heard that health issues attributed to excess body weight may be overstated meanwhile because body mass index, the measure commonly used, was seen to be an inaccurate way of classifying all individuals and their health risks.