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Dr. Miriam Stoppard: Social media influences a teen's confidence in his body

Experts call for vetting of weight loss and cosmetic surgery ads and for social media firms to do more to stop young people feeling bad about their bodies.

The teenage years it is not easy to navigate in life, but for today's young people it represents a minefield, aggravated by social networks. Pictures of perfect bodies are creating anxiety and self-doubt so much that a third of teenagers admit that they are ashamed of their bodies.

This is a real cause for concern, because the image of a slim body and anxiety due to the lack of this can cause depression and thoughts of suicide in adolescents. Experts call for verifying advertising slimming and cosmetic surgery on the quality of the content. The survey of 1,118 UK teenagers for the Mental Health Foundation found 31% of 13 to 19-year-olds feel ashamed of their body shape and 35% had stopped eating or were eating less.

“Our survey has shown that millions of young people in Britain are worrying about their body image,” said Jane Caro, the foundation’s programme lead for families, children and young people.Worries about body image can lead to mental health problems and, in some instances, are linked to self-harm and suicidal thoughts and feelings.”- said Jane Caro, fund manager for families, children and young people.

In addition, two out of five photos posted on social networks made them worry about their bodies. Every third teenager worries about his body almost every day, 37% feel upset and ashamed of it, and 40% say that the comments of friends made them worry about their appearance. The impact of idealized bodies in the media and social networks creates a significant risk for this and the assimilation of an ideal body image that is unattainable. The number of adolescents, especially girls who need hospital care after trying to kill themselves, has grown alarmingly over the past 10 years.

Young Minds' Emma Thomas believes that regular viewing of images of so-called perfect bodies can aggravate the anxiety of young people about how they look.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director of mental health, wants social networking companies to pay a fee to help fund mental health services for children under 18 years of age.

“We know that appearance is one of the things that matters most to young people. These concerning findings not only lay bare the scale of the problem, but also clearly point to where teenagers say the blame should lie.”- she says.

MHF wants the Advertising Standards Authority to pre-test advertisements for cosmetic surgery and weight loss that can damage someone’s vision of their bodies. It's time for the industry to act. Schools can also help by teaching teenagers that these unrealistic standards of beauty are simply unattainable for most people.