National Inquiry into Body Image Called For: eating disorders on the rise, those who have suffered for years still cannot access help
Remember when young people experiencing anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa was largely reported and announcements made to help treat the disease?
Those diseases have not gone away – in fact, we have in our community people who have been suffering for decades, some with a Body Mass Index so low they may have a cardiac arrest and pass away at any moment – and yet they cannot access help as there are only a handful of beds in the public system and those available in the private system are limited and booked in advance.
Recent reports show social media is causing a whole new generation of young men and women, teenagers, and some as young as 9 years of age, presenting with eating disorders, and yet no state government discussion is taking place and no shift in our medical systems to support patients and parents seeking help.
To address this need, Dove has partnered with Butterfly Foundation, to call for a national inquiry to bring about real change to harmful body ideals in Australia.
The first of its kind multi-channel campaign features advertising that visually evolves as more Australians sign a petition launched by Dove on May 8th 2023.
Body dissatisfaction refers to the negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs a person holds about their body and appearance. Body dissatisfaction can have a serious impact on all aspects of a person’s life, including physical and mental health. It can be experienced by people of all ages and genders, however studies report a higher prevalence among girls and women. Body dissatisfaction typically develops early in adolescence but increasingly among younger children. Recent research commissioned by Dove shows that 59% of Aussie girls are not satisfied with their body weight, 61% with their body shape and 63% with their face and facial features. Shockingly, more than half (58%) of girls in Australia are not satisfied with their overall appearance and only 16% of girls always think they have a good body.
In Australia, our young people are paying the highest price associated with body dissatisfaction – with limitations on their health, happiness, and future potential. Toxic beauty and body standards are fuelling unrealistic appearance ideals, driving body comparisons, and contributing to body dissatisfaction. To build a healthy, resilient, and confident generation, it’s essential that we protect the self-esteem and body image of our young people so they can grow up seeing their worth beyond how they look.
It’s time to truly understand the reality and impact of body dissatisfaction in Australia. We need a National Inquiry into Body Image to tell us the real cost of beauty and body ideals, so that effective measures can be put in place to protect and support the body image of children, young people and adults. The last national effort to address body image was an Advisory Group set up in 2009, before social media took off, and a lot has changed since then. In partnership with Butterfly Foundation, we are inviting you to stand with us and sign the petition for a National Inquiry into Body Image.
We ask Australian Parliament to establish a National Inquiry into Body Image so that every Australian child can grow up with the body confidence they deserve.
Source: Dove Self-Esteem and Social Media Report (November 2022)
Over 1 million Australians are living with an eating disorder. Less than a quarter of those receive treatment or support.
Through the Dove Self-Esteem project, recent research commissioned by Dove has revealed that young Australian girls are struggling with their body image, with more than half (58%) admitting they are dissatisﬁed with their overall appearance and 46% reporting they are often upset with the way they look.
Negative body image is not only a key risk factor in developing an eating disorder, it also can have a serious impact on all aspects of a person’s life, including limiting their health, happiness, and future potential.
Among those surveyed, concerningly 59% reported they are not satisﬁed with their body weight, 61% with their body shape and 63% with their face and facial features, revealing the real cost of unrealistic body ideals for young Australians. Having a negative body image can lead to a host of issues, including low self-esteem, constant preoccupation with one’s appearance, an unhealthy ﬁxation on weight, shape, or size, and mental health issues like anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
In order to address this important issue, Dove and Butterﬂy launched the petition calling for a National Inquiry into Body Image. The petition aims to kick-start a national conversation about what policies and programs may be needed to bring about real change in body ideals in Australia, including understanding the prevalence and full impact of body dissatisfaction, and the role played by social media.
Allira Potter, Butterﬂy Foundation Body Pride Ambassador has dedicated her work to promoting body acceptance and celebrating diverse body shapes since experiencing body image pressures in her youth. Allira is encouraging others to step up and support this very important cause. Allira said: ‘We all have the power to use our social media networks to raise awareness of the petition and the need for a National Body Image Inquiry. By signing the petition, we have the ability to enact serious change and shift the conversation around body dissatisfaction in our vulnerable youth’.
It’s been 14 years since the last national effort to investigate the issue, with the National Advisory Group on Body Image created in 2009 to develop a national strategy, including a Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on body image. This Code of Conduct is no longer in use, and is now out of date. For example, the Advisory Group launched one year before Instagram and a decade before TikTok gained popularity in Australia; so now is the time to ﬁght for systematic change.
Christine Weatherby / Kate Westgate, Dove Marketing Manager Australia states, “This call for a National Body Image Inquiry in partnership with Butterﬂy Foundation is the next necessary step to truly understand the reality and impact of body dissatisfaction in Australia, so that industry codes, policies and programs can be put in place to reduce the potential for harm within online and real-world environments, and to protect and support the body image of children, young people and adults. Dove is calling for all Australians to sign the petition, increase awareness of this issue and ultimately drive change for young Australians impacted by body dissatisfaction. For every name added to the campaign, it takes us one step closer to succeeding in creating change”.
Dove and Butterﬂy Foundation have been working together for 17 years, providing evidence-based resources to school-aged children to help them learn how to overcome appearance pressures and access tools to improve body conﬁdence.
Butterﬂy Foundation’s Head of Prevention, Danni Rowlands said, “By calling for a National Body Image Inquiry, we can raise the alarm with parliamentarians and highlight just how many of Australian MPs’ own constituents are affected by this serious issue. Demonstrating how many people who sign the petition live in each electorate will create a groundswell for systemic and cultural change in response to toxic body image ideals. Butterﬂy also encourages individuals to contact the electoral ofﬁce of their local MP to advocate personally, should they wish to do so”.
With constantly changing societal pressures and the evolution of social media, it has never been more important to call for a comprehensive investigation into body image. A forum to hear from researchers, clinicians, professionals who work with kids, parents, people with lived experience and others about the problems and potential solutions is critical for supporting the current generation of young peoples and protecting the generations to come.
We are all asking the Australian Parliament to establish a National Body Image Inquiry so that every Australian child can grow up with the body conﬁdence they deserve.
On Tuesday May 23rd, while acknowledging funding provided in this year’s Federal Budget, members of the Eating Disorder Alliance of Australia (EDAA) called on the Federal Government to involve EDAA members in the system reform process.
In February, Minister for Health, the Hon Mark Butler MP, called out eating disorders as “a national crisis” on the ABC 4 Corners program, 'Fading Away: Australia's secret battle with eating disorders'. While the recently announced Federal Budget does go some way to address the crisis, EDAA, representing the voice of lived experience and health professionals within the eating disorder sector in Australia, says more is needed.
Members of the Eating Disorder Alliance of Australia (EDAA) include Butterfly Foundation (Butterfly), Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA), Eating Disorders Victoria (EDV), Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ), and the Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED). EDAA is pleased to acknowledge the following 12-month funding commitments:
- $1.25m for Wandi Nerida, Australia’s only residential treatment centre for eating disorders, managed by Butterfly
- $800k for the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC), to develop clinical resources, support workforce development, and continue work on the National Eating Disorders Strategy, administered by Butterfly
- $150k for Eating Disorders Families Australia, supporting their National Support and Education programs for families and carers of those with eating disorders
- $450k for ANZAED, to continue to expand connected ANZAEDs Eating Disorder Credential, to include GPs
- $100k contribution towards Butterfly Body Bright (BBB) – a whole of school Primary School program promoting positive body image. BBB is already being accessed by more than 400 Australian primary schools across Australia, and includes tools and resources to build and maintain positive body image, prevent body dissatisfaction, and reduce appearance pressures – known risk factors for developing eating disorders. Butterfly’s 17 years working in prevention and early intervention also includes Body Kind Schools, Body Kind Families, Body Kind Clubs, and more, supporting educators, communities and parents to foster positive body image in young people.
''More broadly, EDAA welcomes the focus on primary health care, including incentivising GPs to bulk bill, the inclusion of case conferencing as part of the Eating Disorder Management Plan under Medicare and investment in the mental health workforce, including additional postgraduate psychology places. We also welcome cost-of-living support to reduce financial distress, noting the association between food insecurity and eating disorder pathology.'' Eating Disorder Alliance of Australia said in an issued statement
''We acknowledge that this budget around Mental Health and suicide prevention is laying the ground work for system reform. EDAA is supportive of the government’s considered approach to meaningful change to the system of care. In line with The Productivity Report ‘s recommendations, EDAA can play a role in consultation and advocacy drawing on the voice of lived experience and informed by the unique role community organisations play in eating disorder treatment and supports.
Some of the key reform actions, we see as a priority would be:
- Eating Disorders Prevention Initiatives With more than a million people -impacted by eating disorders in Australia in any given year, and only one quarter of these getting treatment or support, much more needs to be done to address this national crisis.
- Eating Disorders Lived Experience Workforce developmental resources.
- Ensuring that consumers and cares impacted by eating disorders also have access to a whole range of psychosocial supports.
With a sector-wide National Eating Disorders Strategy 2023-2033 due for release later in 2023, EDAA looks forward to a future funding package commensurate with the goals of the strategy and with timely implementation, in line with community need. EDAA member organisations will continue to collaborate to maximise our impact in preventing, identifying, supporting and providing treatment options to those with a lived or living experience of an eating disorder or body image issue and their carers, families and supports.''
Anna Cullinane, Interim CEO, Butterfly
Belinda Caldwell, CEO, Eating Disorders Victoria
Belinda Chelius, CEO, Eating Disorders Queensland
Jane Rowan, Executive Director, Eating Disorders Families Australia
Jade Gooding, CEO, Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders
The Butterfly Foundation was founded by Claire Middleton in 2002, a mother of two daughters who had suffered from anorexia nervosa. Claire had become acutely aware of the lack of resources available and found it very difficult to find help for her daughters. Since then, Butterfly has established the National Helpline 1800 ED HOPE, programs for schools and teachers on body image, a youth program, programs for individuals with emerging eating disorders, programs for carers, and other community services.
The Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. As the voice of lived experience, we advocate for and on behalf of our community. Through our education programs and services, we provide online and face to face resources, workshops and presentations to schools and community and sporting groups, educating young people and their families on the risks and protective factors for body image issues.
Help and Support
Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:
- Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 or email@example.com
- Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 236
- For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14
About the research:
Research commissioned by Dove ANZ and conducted by Toluna Australia in November 2022 who surveyed All Mothers (n=423) [Australians: 255; Kiwis:168], All Girls (n=423) [ Australians:255; Kiwis: 168]); Australians & Kiwis kids aged (10-17).
Key stats & insights:
- More than half of the girls (58%) are unsatisﬁed with their overall appearance 46% of Aussie girls are always/often upset with the way they look
- 59% are dissatisﬁed with their body weight 61% are dissatisﬁed with their body shape
- 63% are dissatisﬁed with their face and facial features
- Only 21% of Aussie girls are often proud of their body and 19% are happy with their weight
Dove has a long-standing commitment to creating a world where beauty is a source of conﬁdence, and not anxiety. The Dove Self-Esteem Project (2004) helps the next generation develop a positive relationship with the way they look so they are not held back by appearance-related concerns and anxiety and can realise their full potential. So far, we’ve reached the lives of 69 million young people across 150 countries. And by 2030, we’ll have helped 250 million through our educational programmes, making the Dove Self-Esteem Project the largest provider of body conﬁdence education in the world. https://www.dove.com/au/dove-self-esteem-project.html
The call to sign the petition for a National Government Inquiry into body image and the #DetoxYourFeed campaign is part of the ongoing work of The Dove Self-Esteem Project, the world’s largest provider of body conﬁdence education globally, reaching more than 82 million young people across 150 countries through initiatives. The launch of the Conﬁdence Kit has been a part of Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, which aims to help 250 million kids worldwide with self-esteem education by 2030. In Australia, The Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached 2 million Aussie kids since 2006 and aims to reach 2.2 million by the end of 2023.
About Butterﬂy Foundation:
Butterﬂy Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them, representing the voice of lived experience.
Founded more than 20 years ago, Butterﬂy changes lives by providing innovative, evidence-based support services, treatment and resources, delivering prevention and early intervention programs and advocating for the needs of our community.
Throughout its work Butterﬂy emphasises the critical importance of prevention and early intervention strategies in limiting the development of, and suffering from, negative body image and eating disorders. Butterﬂy’s National Helpline, 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673), includes support over the phone, via email and online by trained counsellors experienced in assisting with eating disorders and body image issues.
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that affect one million Australians at any one time. It is essential that the reporting of eating disorders is dealt with sensitively using a ‘do no harm’ approach.
Butterﬂy knows from experience that calls to their national support line and other helplines are directly related to media coverage and we would implore all journalists to act sensibly by including support information in stories about eating disorders. It is important that affected people are able to seek professional assistance immediately.
More at: https://butterfly.org.au/