One in six girls miss school or work due to worries about their appearance, new survey finds
One in six (17%) girls and young women in the UK have missed school or work in the last year due to worries about their appearance, a new survey by global children’s charity Plan International UK can reveal.
Released on International Day of the Girl, the poll of over 1,000 14-21 year-olds found that a huge majority of girls (89%) feel pressure to fit an ‘ideal’ face and body type, and a quarter (25%) feel ‘ashamed or disgusted’ by their body.
These overwhelmingly negative feelings over body image are holding girls back from fully participating in society and achieving their potential. As well as not attending school or work, in the past 12 months:
- A fifth of girls and young women (19%) have avoided public speaking
- One in 10 (9%) have not attended a job interview
- One in 10 (9%) have avoided participating in lessons
- A quarter (27%) have not left the house, such as to go to the shop or for a walk, because of worries about their appearance
Plan International UK is calling for society to recognise body image worries as a gender inequality issue that affects girls’ ability to reach their potential, above and beyond the harmful impact it has on their perception of the way they look.
Today, on International Day of the Girl (Friday 11 October), the charity is asking members of the public to pledge to do one thing to encourage girls to reach their potential, without being held back by appearance worries. This might be by complimenting a friend, sister or daughter on who they are and not how they look, doing something themselves that they’ve always avoided due to worries about their appearance or sending a message of solidarity to the girls Plan International UK works with at www.plan-uk.org/pledge
Sarah, 18, from South Wales says:
“I got bullied through all my years at school. I was called fat because of my weight and I wore jumpers and jackets to cover up myself and my body. Eventually, I stopped going in – I didn’t get any GCSEs, and the bullying gave me anxiety and depression. It’s really affected my future – my education stopped simply because I didn’t feel comfortable.”
Plan International UK’s survey also found:
- Over half (57%) of girls worry about their appearance in school or college every week, and over one-third (39%) worry about their appearance in school every day.
- 69% of girls have avoided at least one social, school or work activity in the past 12 months due to body image concerns. This equates to 2 million (2,030,706) girls aged 14-21.
Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan International UK says:
“We know that girls and young women experience huge pressure on their body image in every area of life, from the images they see in the media to hurtful comments at school. But these new statistics show this is having a frightening impact on their futures, affecting their ability to take advantage of opportunities and, in some cases, preventing them from their basic rights to access education and earn a living.
“On International Day of the Girl, we want to send a clear message that society needs a makeover. Body image worries should not simply be a ‘normal’ part of growing up for girls. We need everyone to recognise this, listen to girls, and elevate their voices to create a society where girls have every chance to succeed.”
As part of Plan International UK’s girls’ rights programmes, the charity is working with The Body Shop who will be donating £25,000 to support Girls Out Loud – a safe, closed space on existing social media channels, moderated by Plan International, where girls can share and discuss the issues that matter to them, including body image.