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Body Dissatisfaction Can Start By Age 8

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Kids as young as 8 years old can struggle with body dissatisfaction that leads to disordered eating behaviors, according to a new study.

Looking at data on over 6,000 adolescents from the Children of the 90s study, researchers from the UCL Institute of Child Health found that teenage boys who experienced body dissatisfaction in childhood were likely to experience disordered eating if they felt overweight during childhood, while teenage girls tend to develop body dissatisfaction regardless of how much they weighed during childhood.

Researchers wanted to see how persistent negative attitudes and thoughts about body image would relate to eating disorders in adolescence, finding in general that low self-esteem and body image issues by the age of 8 is liked to a higher risk of behaviors like self-induced vomiting or laxative use.

Social pressures

Body dissatisfaction at this age was also linked to both boys and girls reporting that they felt pressure from outside influences - their family, their peers, the media - to lose weight.

Lead study author Dr. Nadia Micali said targeted prevention strategies that are gender-specific are needed, as boys and girls experience the effects of body dissatisfaction differently.

“The findings illustrate that we cannot wait around until young people reach adolescence to promote a healthy body image," Micali said. "Body dissatisfaction and weight problems are important risk factors that are present in childhood and might transition into dangerous disordered eating behaviors in adolescence, so interventions need to target younger children."

The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children