Media releases

September 2, 2013

Weight crisis of Australian teens - 1 in 10 would suffer in silence

Weight crisis worsens once teens hit 18

New research shows over half (52%) of Australian teens are concerned they are too fat or too thin yet 1 in 10 would suffer in silence. 1 in 5 parents are concerned their teen is either over or underweight but are largely oblivious to the crisis of communication over the matter.

The research, conducted by the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line in light of Body Image & Eating Disorders Awareness Week (1-8 September), questioned both teens and parents of teens. It revealed three-quarters of parents questioned believed their teen would talk to them about weight concerns. In reality, once a teen hits 18 they are significantly less likely to speak to their mother or father for advice, and nearly twice as likely as younger teens to not seek any help at all.

Alarmingly the body image crisis appears to worsen once teens hit 18 with those in the 18-19 year old age bracket more influenced by celebrities and friends than those in the younger age group. Over a quarter (26%) of 18-19 year olds are concerned about their weight compared to celebrities they admire, as opposed to just 4% of 13-17 year olds. Encouragingly, older teens are more likely to speak to the family doctor, go to a medical centre or call a free phone line for health advice than their younger counterparts.

Out of anyone, including family, friends, medical professionals and school nurses, teens are most likely to speak to their mothers (63%), followed by friends (36%) with fathers way down the list at 19%. Of the parents consulted, only a third would go onto get medical advice if concerned about their teen's weight.

Commenting on the findings, Mia Freedman, Former Chairperson of the National Advisory Group on Body Image, says,

"Now that my own children are reaching the teen stage I am increasingly conscious of how to talk to them about the influence the media, celebrities and their peers have on their own body image. I have always advocated that accepting your own body image as a parent, setting a good example by being healthy and active and seeking professional help when needed are the best foundations for an honest and open dialogue when your children are in their teenage years."

Commenting, Dr. Georgia Karabatsos, Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line Medical Director says:

"Body image is a topic that is more openly addressed than in previous generations. However, this research demonstrates that parents can be misguided about whether their teenage children will turn to them if they have concerns about their weight and there is a clear issue that as children become older they turn less to their family and are more influenced by external pressures such as celebrities. This could be both distressing for parents as well as detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our teenagers.

"It is important that weight and body image issues are addressed properly before they turn into more serious cases. Parents and teens should feel able to seek advice from health professionals - we offer a 24/7 Health Advice Line for all Medibank members with hospital cover which the whole family can call and speak to a qualified nurse confidentially, any time of the day or night."

Lauren Nugent, Advanced Sports Dietitian (SDA) and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Eat Smart Nutrition Consultants says:

"It's alarming to see that body image worsens in teens as they near adulthood, and that they are less inclined to seek help. It unfortunately also highlights that more education, especially around healthy diets and nutritional information, is required in the younger life stages to equip older teens for the challenges ahead."

For parents or teens who want to talk about weight issues confidentially with a trusted medical professional, all Medibank members with hospital cover can speak to a qualified nurse at any time of the day or night on the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line.


Research conducted by Galaxy Research for the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line on 19-24 April 2013 on a sample of 1,061 Australians across the country.

About the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice line:
Members with Medibank hospital cover can call a Medibank nurse with any health questions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Medibank nurses complement the care given by GPs and other health professionals so consumers can trust they'll deliver sound advice, and answer most questions.
If Medibank nurses think a GP should be seen, they can use their clinical knowledge to call the preferred GP clinic and explain the condition to assist getting you an appointment.

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