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Teens stress most over body image


By Sam Benger

The Sunshine Coast Daily

December 4, 2007


Teenagers are more worried about body image than the environment, school and peer pressure.

A national survey of 29,000 young people aged between 11 and 24 found a third of both males and females were most concerned about their body image.

The survey, by welfare charity Mission Australia, also found young people were concerned about family conflict (29.3%) and coping with stress (26.9%).

Caloundra City Youth Partnership manager Jody Tunnicliff blamed media reports of increased childhood obesity and marketing tactics targeting young people as attributing to their low self-esteem.

“Young people are still developing physically and mentally and constantly have expectations put on them as to what to be, what to do and what to look like,” Ms Tunniclifff said.

“That’s why they really depend on the family unit for support and parents need to discuss with their kids what’s really important and what they should be focusing on.

“Young people need grounding so they’re not thrown out by unrealistic expectations that will only confuse them and lead to more problems down the track.”

The survey asked young people to rank issues of concern including school, the environment, alcohol and drugs, relationships, depression and stress. It also asked them about what they valued in life and who they turned to for advice and support and who they admired.

Almost one third of young people said they admired family members the most (28.8%), while 13.1% said friends, 8.3% said entertainers and 7.8% said sports people.

Mission Australia Queensland state director Tony Stevenson said the results showed young people above all valued family and friends.

“Far from the media’s portrayal of young people as highly materialistic, when asked what they value, financial security lags some way behind family and friends,” he said.

Mr Stevenson said it was important to empower young people and provide them with tools to make informative decisions.


Four students from Pacific Lutheran College share their views.

Christine Riddell: “The most stressful thing is school and there’s a lot of pressure on us to make a decision about what career we want to do in the future. I think body image is an issue for girls more than boys.’’

Emily Allen: “School is stressful because there’s a lot of assessment and exams and stuff and that can be stressful. I think girls are more focused on body image. Plus in magazines there’s a lot of beautiful people, like Mischa Barton and the girls from The OC (television show) so there’s pressure to look like them.”

Erin Healy: “I think teenagers are given a bad rap in a lot of cases. People automatically think that young people are lunatics. It’d be easier if we didn’t have to live up to everyone’s expectations.’’

Bronte McMahon: “I think the whole issue surrounding body image has gotten a lot better. It’s not as big a deal as it used to be. Family and friends are the most important people in your life, so you look up to them and ask them for advice on different issues.’’


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