Holyrood advisory group to examine links between body image anxiety and social media

Clare Haughey has announced a new government advisory group on healthy body image.
Clare Haughey has announced a new government advisory group on healthy body image.
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A new group will advise the Scottish Government on how to promote and achieve a healthy body image to help tackle Scotland's mental health crisis.

The advisory group - whose members have not yet been announced - will look at links between social media use and body image issues.

Over six months it will create a charter pledge on healthy body image as well as attempt to define what body image means. It will also develop options for how relevant professionals can support a healthy body image, including in schools, and recommend further actions the government should take.

The launch of the group's remit, by mental health minister Clare Haughey, comes during Mental Health week and just days after a Mental Health Foundation report revealed that a third of adults have felt anxious over their body image, with around a quarter of those surveyed having felt "disgust" or "shame" at their bodies in the past year.

Today in Holyrood, when asked by Scottish Conservative Jamie Green about the survey, Ms Haughey said that the government was taking the report "extremely seriously" and that body image was "increasingly recognised as a factor than can affect people's self esteem."

She said the new advisory group, which will draw members from youth, third sector and equalities groups, was part of the government's overall aim to tackle mental health issues, targeting the impact of social media and body image on people's mental wellbeing.

Ms Haughey said: "From our recently published research, we know that body image is a concern for children and young people. We are striving for a society where people do not suffer because of concerns about body image, and where they do not feel pressured to live up to a false sense of perfection.

"We recognise the link of unhealthy use of social media and lower mental wellbeing which is why we've committed to publishing advice on healthy social media use and I would see that both these pieces of work would link in together."

Julie Cameron, Head of Programmes at MHF Scotland welcomed the new National Advisory Group on Healthy Body. "The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is body image and our research published this week highlights the huge impact that negative body image can have on the mental health of both adults and young people," she said.

“We particularly welcome the commitment to addressing the impact of social media on body image. Our report and survey uncovered evidence that both social media and online advertising are contributing to mental health problems for thousands of people across Scotland. Now is the time to address these pressures head-on and we look forward to playing our full part in the new advisory group.”

And Denise Spence, Chief Executive of Girlguiding Scotland said: “This is a great chance for our members to share how negative body image is impacting the mental health of girls and young women in Scotland, and how the new advisory group will work to help improve support for young people.”