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Urgent call for action and more research on the impact of body image on health and wellbeing
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee inquiry - The impact of body image on mental and physical health - was published yesterday.
This report is the result of an inquiry by MPs that examined the relationship between people’s perception of their body image and their physical and mental health. The inquiry considered how far people’s perception of body image can hinder access to NHS services and whether NHS training and Government messaging should be altered.
The inquiry collated evidence through a variety of methods, including a body image survey on Twitter, which showed that for the vast majority of people, their perception of their body image has a significant impact on their mental and physical health and their overall quality of life: 80% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their body image had a negative impact on their mental health, with 61% agreeing or strongly agreeing that their body image negatively impacts their physical health.
The inquiry also heard directly from a number of witnesses, including health and social care professionals, as well as 'lived experience witnesses' - everyday people with direct experience of their body image having a significant impact on their health and wellbeing. The MPs spoke to a diverse range of people, including those with anxiety, low mood, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, trans people with body dysphoria, those with visible differences and so on. Unfortunately, many of those people had tried to seek help through health and social care services but felt stigmatised and dismissed by professionals.
The inquiry makes many recommendations but the overarching recommendation is as follows:
We urge the Government to immediately initiate a comprehensive cross-government strategy... This strategy should include, but not be limited, to education about self-worth, body positivity, critical thinking and appraising images, as well as wider health advice such spotting signs and symptoms of eating disorders, anxiety and depression and body dysmorphia, within educational, health and online/media settings.