New report calls for better regulation and enforcement on advertising to young people to promote good body image and help safeguard their mental health

The need for improved regulation to stop inappropriate advertising to young people, and the introduction of age restrictions on non-medical cosmetic procedures, are just two of the key recommendations highlighted in a new report on young people’s Body Image published today (Tuesday 17 March 2020).

The reportBody Image: We are more than what we look like,” has been issued by the Advisory Group on Health Body Image for Young People, which was tasked by the Scottish Government with undertaking a six month review to understand more about body image and how it can affect young people’s mental health.

The new report highlights a series of key recommendations for helping young people across Scotland achieve good body image:

  • Improved regulation and enforcement to stop the promotion of inappropriate advertising and images to young people
  • Increased restrictions to non-medical cosmetic procedures, including age restrictions. 
  • Improved training and guidance for a range of practitioners including those in the beauty and fitness industries.
  • National campaign promoting good body image for all Scottish children and young people
  • Better information for parents and carers on how we talk about body insecurities around our children.

The report also highlights the need for the wider public to start being kinder to ourselves and each other when it comes to our body image, including putting a stop to body shaming and blaming and accepting that we are all more than what we look like. 

Julie Cameron, Head of Programmes at Mental Health Foundation Scotland, and co-chair of the Body Image Advisory Group said: “Our report highlights that an increasing number of young people are feeling stress, shame and unhappiness about their body image and that this is being influenced by many factors including advertising and social media portraying the idea of stereotypical beauty, and how this leads to success and happiness.

“We believe it is possible to change this conversation, and that by working together, measures can be put in place to support young people and help them develop good body image, positive mental health and resilience.

 “We hope the Scottish Government will take swift and positive action to implement the recommendations, and help create the conditions for good body image for our young people, now and in the future.

The Advisory Group was set up in response to new findings published by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland last year in their report ‘Body Image -how we think and feel about our bodies’ which highlighted that *one in five Scottish young people (20 percent) say they have felt ashamed of their Body Image and way they look. The poll also found that a third (33 percent) of young people have felt ‘worried’ and over a quarter have felt ‘upset’ (26 percent) because of concerns about their Body Image.

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said: “I would like to thank the Members of the Body Image Advisory Group and all those who have been involved in the development of this report and providing us with detailed recommendations about how we can improve children and young people’s body image in Scotland.

“We know from research published over the last year that body image is an issue that matters to young people. This was the main driver for establishing the Advisory Group last year - we will formally respond to these recommendations in the coming weeks.

“We all have body image and our aspiration is for everyone to have good body image. This report provides us with the next steps to ensure that this can be achieved.”