University of the West of England, Bristol

Improving body image in young people

Negative body image is a significant global health issue, with 50 to 70 per cent of children in the developed world saying they are unhappy with the way they look.

Such perceptions of body image contribute to health problems including depression, eating disorders and substance misuse. Researchers at UWE play a pivotal role in developing educational programmes that help millions of children across the world build their body confidence. They have been influential in the success of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, an international social mission that has reached 35 million people in 141 countries with body confidence education since 2004

Experts from the university’s Centre for Appearance Research, the world’s largest research group focusing on the role of appearance and body image, have helped to develop and evaluate many of the project’s educational programmes. These include evidence-based interventions on body image and self-esteem for schools, youth groups and parents.

Research conducted at UWE Bristol has been described as “instrumental” in formulating the project’s approach, helping Dove identify an effective programme for secondary schools and ways to strengthen it further. The academics’ work has also been invaluable in the development of a later programme developed by the Dove Self-Esteem Project and World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, the largest voluntary movement in the world dedicated to women and girls in the world.

There are plans to reach 40 million young people with body confidence education by 2020.

Further reading