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General News, Mental Health

Body dissatisfaction is stopping nearly half of young people in Australia from going to school.

Butterfly Foundation 4 mins read

Butterfly’s second annual Body Kind Youth Survey reveals young people in Australia are calling for more support to tackle body image issues and its impact on their daily lives.

  • Of nearly 3,000 young people surveyed, over half (57%) were dissatisfied with how their body looks –11% more than 2022 results.
  • Nearly half (49%) said body dissatisfaction stopped them attending school.
  • 78% of young people wished they were thinner or leaner – 16% more than 2022 survey results.
  • Almost two thirds (62%) said social media made them feel dissatisfied with their body –12% higher than the 2022 results.
  • Young people want better body image support in schools: 8 in 10 believe primary schools must do more, and 90% felt the same about high schools.

Butterfly Foundation’s second annual Body Kind Youth Survey (BKYS) has revealed the concerning status of body image among young people in Australia, with nearly half of the respondents saying body image has at some point stopped them from going to school.

The survey, supported by nib foundation, found of those aged 12-18, over half (57%) were dissatisfied with how their body looks and over a third (38%) were mostly or completely dissatisfied.

An overwhelming majority (95%) of young people reported some level of concern about their body image and more than two-thirds wished they were thinner or leaner (78%) and more muscular (71%).

The survey results also provide an important snapshot of the impact of body image on different demographic groups, with more males reporting high levels of body dissatisfaction in 2023 compared with 2022, while females, gender diverse and LGBTQIA+ youth continue to report the highest body dissatisfaction overall.

Body dissatisfaction is a leading risk factor in the development of an eating disorder. Butterfly’s recent Paying the Price report revealed an 86% rise in eating disorders among young people aged 10 to 19 years since 2012[1].

Helen Bird, Education Services Manager at Butterfly Foundation, says these results have never been more critical. “This is yet more evidence that young people’s body image is having a profound impact on every aspect of their lives and prevention and early intervention is critical to improve outcomes.”

Consistent with 2022, body dissatisfaction limits young people’s involvement in sport, social activities and speaking up about what matters to them.  As well as significant impacts on school engagement, body image had an even greater impact on young people going to the beach (82%), going shopping for clothes (69%), and doing a physical activity/sport (65%).

Tharindu Jayadeva (TJ), age 30 from Melbourne, who has lived experience of anorexia nervosa says he found primary school was an especially tough time for his body image due to a combination of casual racism, bullying and appearance-based comments,

“Receiving comments from teachers and students about my weight and skin colour played a role in my body dissatisfaction, and it was during this time where I first started dieting. Focusing on my appearance took up a great deal of my time and energy as a young person. I was deeply uncomfortable in my body and found myself constantly comparing myself to my peers. Choosing loose outfits that showed little to no skin, withdrawing from school sports with my friends, and navigating school lunchtimes were a daily stress.”

The impact of social media on students remains significant, with almost two thirds (62%) of young people saying that social media made them feel dissatisfied with their bodies (12% more than last years’ results) yet three quarters (75%) said they never take a break from social media because it affects how they felt about their body.

Young people’s experience of teasing remains a significant issue, with the majority (77%) saying they have received negative comments, or been teased, about their appearance, most frequently at school (77%), followed by home (38%) and on social media (33%).

“Unsurprisingly, across the two years of the survey, young people have consistently called for more body image support at school and on social media," said Helen.

“It’s crucial that we listen to what they have to say, so we can collectively work towards a future of a more Body Kind Australia that supports young people to thrive mentally and physically in their bodies. Butterfly’s strength-based programs are at hand to give children and young people evidence-based strategies and tools to support a positive body image – Butterfly-led school and community presentations and workshops, Butterfly Body Bright for primary schools, our Body Kind initiative for schools, families and sporting clubs, and the soon-to-be-released Body Kind Online Education digital learning program for secondary students, funded by Australia’s e-Safety Commissioner”, adds Helen.

Amy Tribe, nib foundation Executive Officer says, “This year's results show that body image issues in young Australians remain persistent and concerning. We are pleased to announce nib foundation will support the Body Kind Youth Survey again for a third year so Butterfly can continue to track the body image experiences of young people. The data insights provide vital direction for prevention efforts, which in turn help young people transition to adulthood with better health and wellbeing.”

To see the full results of the Butterfly Body Kind Youth Survey and for more information about Butterfly’s programs visit: www.butterfly.org.au/get-involved/campaigns/youthsurveyfindings/  

 

-ENDS-



[1] Deloitte Access Economics. (2024). Paying the Price, Second Edition: The economic and social impact of eating disorders in Australia. Report commissioned for Butterfly Foundation. Sydney: Butterfly Foundation. https://butterfly.org.au/who-we-are/research-policy-publications/payingtheprice2024/


About us:

About Butterfly Foundation  

Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. Butterfly is on a mission to create a more ‘Body Kind’ Australia, where young people grow up treating their own bodies and all bodies with respect and kindness. Butterfly has been running school prevention and intervention programs for over 17 years, supporting both primary and secondary schools to help kids thrive and learn to love their bodies from a young age. 

 

About the research
Released by Butterfly Foundation

Overview: This research was conducted by Butterfly Foundation with N=2942 young Australians aged between 12 – 18 years old, through a self-completed ethics approved national online survey This research took place in September – November 2023. The findings were firste first released to the public in May 2024.

 

Editor and producers note 

Please include the following support line details in all media coverage of this story and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders. 

 

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact: 

·         Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or support@butterfly.org.au   

·         Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23 

·         For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14 


Contact details:

Media Contacts 

Harriet Potter 

Butterfly Communications Manager  

Ph: 0451 837 044 

E:  harriet.potter@butterfly.org.au 

Emma Hopgood 

   Edelman for Butterfly Foundation 

   Ph: 0435 671 617 

   E: butterflyPR@edelman.com   

 

 

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