As parents or carers of young people, we like to think we know what's important in young people’s lives. But there's no way to tell what's really going on in their heads. If we're trying to understand young people as a group--their perspective in relation to the world and the culture right now--it's even harder. That's where Mission Australia's Youth Survey comes in.
“It’s the largest national survey of young people in Australia,” says Rachel Christie, head of their Centre for Evidence and Insights. “We get around 20,000 responses from young people each year. It’s a broad-brush survey that tries to understand young people’s aspirations and concerns; what they value, what’s worrying them, what they’re excited about.”
One eye-popping finding is that for the past six years, body image has been one of the top four issues for young people. Since 2017, it’s been one of the top three.
The problem is we’re not entirely sure why.
So Butterfly is on a mission to investigate further, because the Mission Australia survey doesn’t tell us enough. It’s more like a metal detector, admits Christie. Helen Bird, Butterfly’s Education Services Manager, agrees. “If we have better data, then we can better target our education and prevention efforts. We want to do a really deep dive into the body image experiences of young Australians from 12 to 18 years old, so we're launching our own survey this year.”
“I struggled a lot with my relationship with my body in the teen years,” says Clare Hennessy, a Sessional Presenter for Butterfly Body Kind. “The comparison voice that was opened up in me as a kid just got worse as a teenager.”
We do know that our bodies are not the problem, it's our thoughts and feelings about them that cause us distress. With that in mind, the more we know about young people’s experience of body image, the more able we’ll be able to support body kindness – both towards themselves and to others too.
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