More than half of 14 and 15 year old girls are unhappy with their figures despite being healthy or underweight
00:25 GMT, 23 July 2012
The study found 58% of female pupils in Year 10 would like to diet, despite most already being a healthy weight
Schoolgirls as young as 12 are unhappy with their weight and some are skipping meals in an effort to be skinnier, a study has found.
Half of girls in year eight – who are aged 12 and 13 – said they wanted to be thinner.
And 58 per cent of girls in year ten, aged 14 or 15, said they wanted to lose weight, according to the study by the Schools Health Education Unit.
During the research, 31,354 boys and girls aged ten to 15 were questioned about their eating habits and body image.
Young girls revealed how they are controlling their eating in their quest to be thinner.
A quarter of year ten girls skipped breakfast on the morning they were questioned and 20 per cent had skipped lunch the day before.
Of those who had skipped breakfast, 36 per cent had avoided eating lunch on the previous day.
But if many of the girls keen to lose weight started dieting they could be putting their health at risk.
The researchers said: ‘An analysis of the characteristics of the year ten females shows that most of those wanting to lose weight are within the limits of “healthy” weight, and some are already underweight.’
The survey also found that while around 16 per cent of children thought that their health was down to luck, three-quarters of pupils in years eight and ten said they felt ‘in charge’ of their health.
Campaigners said the results were unsurprising considering young people’s exposure to airbrushed images of celebrities in magazines.
Despite being a healthy weight or even underweight, many 14 and 15-year-olds still want to diet
A spokesman for eating disorder
charity Beat said: ‘One of the key features of current popular culture
is a preoccupation with weight and shape and we know that poor body
image and low self-esteem are key factors in the development of eating
The fascination with celebrities,
their bodies, clothes and appearance has all increased the pressure that
young people feel as they seek to establish their own identities – and
typically at a time when their own bodies are growing and changing.
‘Celebrities are scrutinised for
flaws and imperfections, leading young people to consider their own
bodies in a critical light too.
‘Into this mix is added airbrushing
and digital manipulation of images, creating a hyper-real perfection.
Young people compare themselves unfavourably to these images and some
are more affected than others, usually because they are more
The same survey found that many teenagers feel they are not getting enough sleep to concentrate at school.
Twenty-eight per cent of girls and 22 per cent of boys in year ten thought they needed more sleep.
Overall, 80 per cent of boys and 78
per cent of girls in year eight said they got the recommended eight
hours or more of sleep a night, but this fell to 65 per cent for year
ten boys and girls.