Body Image Issues Affect Girls Across NI

The NSPCC has flagged up its concern about the dangers young girls face through body image.

Girls from Northern Ireland are 13 times more likely than boys to receive help from Childline for worries about their weight, problems with acne and generally how they look.

* Last year 13 times as many girls  than boys, from Northern Ireland, received Childline counselling for worries about how they look

* There were 111 counselling sessions on body image delivered to children from Northern Ireland by Childline over the last two years.

* Childline told that ‘body perfect’ images across TV, magazines and social media are contributing to girls’ anxiety over their own appearance.

* TV personality and body image campaigner Stacey Solomon joins Dame Esther Rantzen in encouraging young people to be comfortable in their own skin

Exposure to ‘body perfect’ images on TV, in magazines and across social media is cited as one of the reasons why girls in particular are so unhappy with their appearance.

These issues were heightened when the individual also suffered bullying at school and online, driving some victims to try and change the way they look.

A number of young people who were counselled by Childline about how they look also revealed that they were struggling with self-esteem issues, depression and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

In 2016/17 there was a total of 54 counselling sessions delivered to young people with body image issues across Northern Ireland. Of these sessions, 40 were with girls, three were with boys and in 11 cases the child’s gender was unknown.

The figures form part of a total of 2,609 counselling sessions, delivered across the UK, to young people with body image problems, with 980 of these received by 12 to 15 year-old girls. A further 120 counselling sessions were delivered to girls aged 11 and under.

One 12 year-old girl told the Childline: “I’m feeling really sad and I don’t like myself. I keep comparing myself to pictures of people in magazines and people on TV and I wish I looked like them. I don’t want to talk to people about this because I don’t want to worry them.”

And a girl in the 16-18 age group said:  ” I feel so embarrassed about the way I look. I hate my body, when I’m with my friends I always feel like the fat one. I can’t dress like my friends because it makes me feel fat and ugly. I’m too embarrassed to tell anybody how I’m feeling and it’s making me really lonely.”

Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: “It’s very sad and extremely worrying that girls in particular are so unhappy with the way they look. Without the right support and a general change in attitude across society there is a real danger these issues could intensify and continue into adulthood.

“It’s important all young people realise that everyone is different and everyone has the right to grow-up slowly and be comfortable in their own skin. Childline will continue to provide vital support for young people to ensure those on a journey of self-acceptance never feel alone. “

TV personality and body image campaigner Stacey Solomon added: “Childhood should be a happy, care-free time but these figures show that many young people are getting old before their time.

“The 24 hour nature of social media along with the constant steam of airbrushed images on television and in magazines is encouraging girls in particular to strive for an ideal which doesn’t exist in reality.

“All adults who care for the wellbeing of the younger generation need to try and make both boys and girls understand that each person has a beauty, talents and a personality that are unique to them.”

Any adult concerned about the welfare of a child or young person can call the NSPCC helpline for free, 24/7, on 0808 800 5000.

Children can call Childline at any time on 0800 111, visit:

or download the ‘For Me’ app.



* The number of counselling sessions delivered to girls aged 11 and under who contacted Childline from across the UK about body image in 2015/16: 77. The number of sessions delivered to girls aged 11 and under who contacted Childline about body image in 2016/17: 119. Childline has been able to record the gender of contacts more accurately.

* The total annual UK figure for counselling sessions concerning body image has remained largely the same for Childline over the last two years (2,618 in 2015/16 and 2,609 in 2016/17) but the number of calls where gender and or age is undisclosed or unknown has dropped by 56% (832 in 2015/16 and 365 in 2016/17).

* All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.

* 1,204 of the total call number came from children aged 12 to 15 years old (46%).

* For girls, mental health and wellbeing concerns, including low self-esteem/unhappiness, suicidal feelings, self-harm and mental health conditions, were the most common reasons for them to contact Childline over the same period. Low self-esteem/unhappiness was mentioned in 15% of all counselling sessions from girls – no.1 in the top 10 main concerns.

Northern Ireland breakdown


Northern Ireland
Age Group Girls Boys Unknown Total
11 and under 1 1 0 2
12 to 15 17 1 2 20
16 to 18 9 0 0 9
Unknown 13 1 9 23
Total 40 3 11 54



Northern Ireland
Age Group Girls Boys Unknown Total  
11 and under 0 0 1 1  
12 to 15 11 5 3 19  
16 to 18 8 2 1 11  
Unknown 7 1 18 26  
Total 26 8 23 57