A recent article has stated that British children are among the unhappiest in the world – and negative perception of body image is largely at fault. The article claims that children in England are less satisfied than their counterparts in developing countries, according to a global wellbeing chart published by the Children’s Society.
Despite the fact that we have some of the highest living standards in the world, English children are less satisfied with their life compared to children in developing countries such as Brazil and South America. England ranks 9th out of 11 countries based on this study in terms of happiness and sources of stress, with only South Korea and Uganda scoring lower. Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society rightly states that we cannot shut our eyes and ears to half a million children who say they are unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives.
The study showed that 1 in 5 pre-teen girls were plagued with anxieties about their bodies. We’re all well aware of the body pressures that teen girls and young women put themselves under – but it’s troubling to see this issue affecting much younger children. Children have the right to be carefree and enjoy their lack of responsibility; it’s awful to think that their happiness is being depleted by something as petty as appearance.
Although these findings are very sad indeed, they are not exactly surprising. I have often commented on the unrealistic expectations of our ‘size zero’ culture, idolisation of ‘skinny’ and the unhealthy obsession with body image in our society. Don’t get me wrong, I feel it is very important to look after yourself and keep your body in the best health, especially in this age of rising childhood obesity, but the levels of obsession are now bordering extreme and are causing a great deal of heartache and even mental illness. I believe that this change in attitude is, at least in part, down to the media. The perpetuation of unrealistic body images and unattainable ideals in every form of media will surely be feeding the insecurities of these young girls and boys, especially as children are exposed to technology, celebrity culture and social media at younger and younger ages.
A positive element that we can take from this study is that it was found that children who play sports and active games were more likely to score highly for happiness. Surely the answer is a simple one. Tear your children away from iPads/televisions/Twitter and get them into sport.
My own opinion is that, in general, children are given too much too quickly. Instead of watching the Kardashians and posting selfies on Facebook, encourage your kids to get outside, join a sports team or just play tag. Allow them to be kids for as long as possible and I believe their happiness will see a vast improvement.