A young woman walking in a park with a friend behind her.

How does body image impact young people's mental health?

About the inquiry

Body image is how we think and feel about ourselves physically, and how we believe others see us. When we talk about body image, there are lots of ways we can think about our body and the way we look.

In June 2020, the Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry to hear from young people and professionals about how body image can impact how people feel about themselves and how it can impact their mental health. 

Models only being shown in one size creates ideals that young people look up to, setting unrealistic targets which can be really damaging to mental health.
A YoungMinds Activist

What did our Activists tell us?

We spoke to the young people on our Activist programme to inform our submission to the inquiry. Here's what they told us.

  • Discussions about body image need to go beyond body size and shape. Gender identity, skin tone, how our body functions and many different elements contribute to how young people feel about themselves and their bodies.
  • There is a lack of diversity in people that are deemed to be ‘aspirational’ or 'desirable' in the media.
  • Body positivity campaigns can be helpful but some lack representations of people with visible disabilities and people of different ethnicities. They also tend to lack genuine diversity of shapes and size, even if the models used have a larger frame than those typically used.
  • Public health campaigns must consider what impact their messaging can have on young people’s mental health and how they feel about their bodies.
  • Social media can have both positive and negative impacts on young people’s lives and how they feel about themselves.
Read our full response