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Publications: Data Visualisations

Negative body image

Body image is closely linked to self-esteem and refers to how a person sees themselves, how they feel about the way they look and how they think others see them. Many factors influence body image such as family environment, pubertal development, peer relations, media consumption and socio-cultural norms.

An unhealthy body image in childhood can have long-lasting consequences which seriously affect a child’s social, physical and emotional development.

Weight-control behaviours resulting from body image dissatisfaction include unhealthy practices such as skipping breakfast and an overemphasis on risky caloric reduction. Body weight dissatisfaction is also related to increased substance use, risky sexual behaviour and poor mental health.

Use the interactive display below to compare data for children who reported perceiving their body to be ‘too fat’ in HBSC’s 2009/10 international survey. Make sure you view both tabs: "1. Regional overview" and "2. Cross-country breakdown".

Promoting healthy body image

Protective factors against excessive body-image concerns include:

  • taking part in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet

  • developing media literacy skills and critically reflecting upon perceived body ideals

  • feeling accepted by peers and family members

  • having access to accurate information about puberty and normal teenage growth

The reactions of significant others – such as parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and peers – to appearance and weight are critically important. Young people who receive affirming reactions to their bodies tend to develop body satisfaction. However, critical comments, encouragement to lose weight and stigmatization around body shape are associated with the development of a negative body image.

Related publications

  • Self-esteem and physical development in early adolescence: pubertal timing and body image (Journal of Early Adolescence)

  • Sustaining a positive body image in adolescence: an assets-based analysis (Health and Social Care in the Community)

  • Body weight dissatisfaction and communication with parents among adolescents in 24 countries: international cross-sectional survey (BMC Public Health)

  • Body Mass Index and Body Weight Perception as Risk Factors for Internalizing and Externalizing Problem Behavior Among Adolescents (Journal of Adolescent Health)

  • Body image is for girls. A qualitative study of boys’ body image (Journal of Health Psychology)

  • Habitual negative body image thinking as psychological risk factor in adolescents (Body Image)

  • Does Body Satisfaction Matter? Five-year Longitudinal Associations between Body Satisfaction and Health Behaviors in Adolescent Females and Males (Journal of Adolescent Health)