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What Australians think about body image

A new report by Medibank reveals 48% of young Aussies worry more about body image than actual health

Most Australians rate a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing ahead of physical features such as being slim, attractive and young, a new survey released today by Medibank found.

But for teenagers and younger adults, the story is a little different, with 48% of 18-24 year olds reporting they worry more about body shape than overall health. Younger Australians are also more likely to believe that an attractive body shape means a person is in good health.

The Medibank Health Check #4 – ‘Community perceptions on the role of body image vs health’ is the fourth in a quarterly series of surveys looking at Australian perceptions of current health issues. For this survey, a representative sample of 1,500 Australians were asked their thoughts and opinions about physical appearance – how you look on the outside – compared to and in relation to inner health and wellbeing.

Key findings

A clear link between being healthy and being attractive was identified by participants, with healthy eating and being active among the key features of what makes someone both ‘attractive’ and ‘healthy.’ Overall, these results were encouraging:

• Feeling good, healthy eating and being active were seen as the most important features of health and wellbeing.

• Confidence, good teeth, stable lifestyle and good eating habits were seen as the most important elements of attractiveness.

• Eating habits, exercise and weight were the leading attributes of a healthy person.

• Losing weight, eating better and getting active were the most popular steps people would take to improve their appearance and wellbeing.

Young Australians and body image

The survey results suggest that the younger you are, the more concerned you are likely to be with weight and appearance, compared to healthy living features such as being active and eating well. 18-24 year olds were almost seven times more likely to be worried about body shape than those aged 65 and over.

“37 per cent of 25-34 year olds believe an attractive body shape means you are in good health. This compares to only 14 per cent of people of over 65s,” says Dr Ian Boyd, Medibank’s Chief Medical Officer.

“This is a concerning situation for younger Australians, with poor body image being linked to binge eating, over exercise, depression and general poor health.

“According to the Victorian Government health initiative The Better Health Channel, a significant proportion of Australians have an unhealthy body image, with 45% of women and 23% of men in the healthy weight range believing they are overweight. At least 20% of women who are underweight think they are overweight and are dieting.”

“On a more positive note, health-related attributes such as good diet, active and stable lifestyle were seen as the most important determinants of health and attractiveness and losing weight. Eating better and getting active were the most popular steps people would take to improve their appearance and wellbeing highlighting the link people made between being healthy and attractive.”

Read the full report, Medibank Health Check #4 – ‘Community perceptions on the role of body image vs health’.

Read more about body image and mental health on be. If you need help or support for an eating disorder or body image issue, call The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 334 673 or e-mail support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au.

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