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MPs call for body image lessons

MPs have recommended that all school children should take part in compulsory body image and self-esteem lessons at schools after an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on body image heard evidence that more than half of the public has a negative body image.

Body dissatisfaction in the UK is on the rise

MPs have recommended that all school children should take part in compulsory body image and self-esteem lessons at schools after an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on body image heard evidence that more than half of the public has a negative body image.

Girls as young as five now worry about how they look, the MPs' report said, while cosmetic surgery rates have increased by nearly 20% since 2008. Media images of unrealistic bodies were said to be largely to blame, they said.

The MPs released the Reflections on Body Image report after a three-month inquiry, involving an online consultation and oral evidence given to the cross-party group.

Among other recommendations was a review into whether the Equality Act 2010 should be amended to include appearance-related discrimination, which would be put on the same legal basis as race and sexual discrimination.
Under the current act, people can be prosecuted for verbal abuse if it is considered to be serious enough. If this was amended it would be an offence to harass someone because of their appearance, for example by drawing attention to their weight.

The inquiry found evidence that suggested body dissatisfaction in the UK was on the rise. It is a key factor in health and relationship problems and low-self esteem, the report, co-authored by health and education charity Central YMCA, said.
Children often reflected their parents' own body-related anxieties, the evidence suggested, while appearance is the greatest cause of bullying in schools.

Body dissatisfaction, the report said, is a problem that affects people regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, body size or shape. However, the evidence suggested young people and children were particularly vulnerable to anxiety over their bodies.

Parents were one of the main influences on children - but peer groups became a stronger influence by secondary school age.

The inquiry was conducted between 24 November 2011 and 24 February 2012. It consisted of an online consultation and 10 evidence sessions where witnesses representing organisations with an interest or association with body image gave evidence at the House of Commons. In total, the online consultation had 601 submissions

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