Body Image and Mental Health

Part of Exiting the European Union (Transport) – in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 2:17 pm, 23rd July 2019

The hon. Gentleman raises an issue close to my heart. When we talk about so-called reality TV programmes, it is as if the people participating in them are normal people. The reality, however, is that they are not normal people. They are semi-professional celebrities who have often undergone enhancements to become attractive to be chosen to go on these television programmes. The whole thing starts to develop insidiously in a culture, making people think that they should aspire to look like that and that it is normal. Everyone is chasing a lifestyle that is frankly not attainable.

We have all enjoyed watching such programmes. I often say that we have become a nation of voyeurs, but perhaps we all need to remind society that there is no quick route to fame, fortune and success—that comes as a result of hard work—and that spending a bit of money on a nip and tuck and a lip filler will not be the route to earning a lot of money. We all need to start to address that, because we have allowed magazines and our media to develop this image. We have been complicit in it happening, because we have enjoyed that entertainment, but we are reaching a position where our society is extremely unhealthy.

The problem has been made particularly acute by the growth of social and digital media, which have increased exposure to unrealistic and unattainable images of beauty. As we all know, when we are browsing on our iPad we can look at one thing and straight away be bombarded with sites that squirrel us down a route where we are exposed to more and more such content. People who are looking at unrealistic body images will see ever more images that they aspire to. There is another insidious thing: a friend of mine was speaking to me only last night and said that she was looking at cosmetic procedures when, all of a sudden, an advert popped on to her screen encouraging her to spend a few thousand pounds so that she could learn to administer lip fillers herself. She thought how horrendous it is that our social media does that.