19 out of 20 young women 'would change bodies'

Kevin Rawlinson
Tuesday 03 November 2009 01:00 GMT

Girls as young as seven would like to change something about their appearance and half of 16 to 21-year-olds would consider surgery to achieve their perfect body, a study has revealed.

The research, carried out by Girlguiding UK, shows that 95 per cent of 16 to 21-year-olds would change their bodies, with 33 per cent saying they wanted to be thinner and around a quarter of 16 to 21-year-olds said they would consider resorting to cosmetic surgery.

“We all compare ourselves to our peers, whoever they may be and for girls and young women, their peers are usually other young women,” said Dr Kerry O’Brien, a Psychologist at the University of Manchester.

“For them, as with others it is about finding their place in the world and wanting to compare favourably. Unfortunately, considering the approach of the media, that is often not the case.

“Many girls try to measure up to an image which is not a true reflection and can feel that they are coming up short,” he added.

A further 12 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds would consider having a gastric band or plastic surgery and five per cent would think about Botox to achieve the body image they wanted.

Weight is less of an issue for younger girls, with only five per cent of seven to nine-year-olds wanting to get slimmer. But the figure rose to 12 per cent of 10 to 11-year-olds, and 27 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds. Among 7 to 11-year-olds, 72 per cent said they would change something about themselves, the most common complaint being their teeth.

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, whose party wants to ban airbsrushing pictures, blamed the pressure young girls find themselves under on an “unrealistic idea of what is beautiful means.”

“This report highlights the worrying number of teenage girls who are going on extreme diets or even considering cosmetic surgery because they're unhappy with the way they look,” she said, adding: “Airbrushing means that adverts now contain completely unattainable images that no-one can live up to in real life.

“Girls shouldn't constantly feel the need to measure up to a very narrow range of digitally manipulated images.”

Girguiding UK quizzed 1,109 girls on topics including binge drinking, eating disorders, plastic surgery, sexual health and body image. The study also showed that more than a quarter of girls aged 11 to 16 had drunk so much that they had been sick or lost control.

Chief Guide, Liz Burnley said: “Political debate is constantly grappling for solutions to these issues, under the intense scrutiny of the media spotlight, but the one group whose views are not sought are the young women they affect.”

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