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Body image: inquiry calls for views

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Women and Equalities Committee, inquiry, body image, How does negative body image affect different people?

The Women and Equalities Committee wants to hear from a range of people and organisations on what causes poor body image and how people’s body image is impacted by companies, advertisements, social media and government policy.

Awareness of the impact of advertising and media consumption on people’s body image has increased in recent years. And negative body image is widely perceived as solely a young women’s problem.

But more recently, research has shown that this is a wider issue:

Recent studies report that over a third of adults feel anxious or depressed about their body image, and nearly half (44 per cent) want to see greater diversity in the mainstream media.

NHS studies have shown that 57 per cent of young men felt pressured by social media to look good, and 23 per cent believed there to be a ‘perfect male body.’

The Mental Health Foundation reported in a recent study that 40 per cent of LGBT+ adults felt shame because of their body image.

And 80 per cent of disabled people surveyed by Trailblazers said that their body image has a direct impact on their mental well-being.

What affects body image? How does negative body image affect different people? Is there a role for the government in creating policies and strategies to address any problems?

The inquiry will consider questions about the role of media, social media and advertising, and will consider whether there is enough research and data to support the government in creating policy surrounding body image and social media.

Other issues considered will include:

Whether companies advertise their goods and services responsibly in relation to promoting body image;

The role of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in promoting diversity and a positive body image in both broadcast and non-broadcast advertising;  and

To what extent proposals in the Online Harms White Paper protect people from potential harm caused by social media content in regard to body image.

The committee wants to hear your views, and welcomes submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence.

The Committee’s Chair, Caroline Nokes MP, said: “Negative body image can affect anyone. This is not just an issue for young people, although the impact on young women is known to be problematic.

“We are particularly keen to hear about how it interacts with other protected characteristics such as disability, ethnicity, and sexuality.

“We would like to hear from people about the impact it has on them, their views about the causes, and what role the government and regulators might have in addressing the problem.”

To find out more, and to find out how to contribute to this inquiry, click here.

You can submit evidence until 26 June 2020.

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