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Young people share their concerns about body image in Sutton


We spoke to Healthwatch Sutton to find out more.

What made you investigate this issue?

We wanted to ensure that our work represented the views of more people in the borough – as previously we had worked primarily on issues affecting older people. As a result, our Board agreed to carry out a specific piece of work with young people.

We asked young people to share their top three health and care priorities. They told us that body image was their greatest area of concern. We decided to make a short film, where young people discuss their thoughts on body image, how it affects young people and what they want from health and care services.

What did people tell you?

People told us that body image is often considered a taboo subject and that many find it difficult to talk about. They also said that many young people have insecurities about their body image and feel under pressure to look a certain way, and that the media and social media affect how young people feel about themselves.

We heard that they wanted more information and education about body image issues, and greater promotion living a healthy lifestyle. Many felt that school would be the best place to learn this, and that body image should be discussed more widely.  

Many of the young people we spoke to didn’t know what services were available to them, and felt that there was little available locally to address body image issues in the early stages, before things escalate.

What happened as a result?

We premiered our film at Sutton Salvation Army Hall to an audience of our members and general public. The film has been a really useful tool to instigate discussion, and we have plans to show it to groups of young people to talk about the issue of body image in more detail. Through showing this film, we have established some good links with youth groups and schools which will enable us to reach a wider group of young people.

We are also showing this work at our next Health and Wellbeing Board. We have also had requests from strategic groups, such as our Children and Young People’s Forum. We hope that through these channels we will be able to influence commissioners to develop solutions to the issues raised.

What feedback have you had so far?

People say they have found the film very thought-provoking and sometimes upsetting. Older people showed some surprise that this was an issue and said this was not of great concern to their generation. People have shown concern that young people’s self-esteem can be affected so negatively by their appearance.