Love Island leaves thousands of young adults worried about their bodies

Almost one in four people aged 18 to 24 say reality TV makes them worry about their body image.

Sarah Jane
18 June 2019
Love Island ITV

A charity is concerned about the impact of some television programmes.

Almost one in four people aged 18 to 24 say reality TV makes them worry about their body image, according to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation.

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The survey suggests that Love Island could leave thousands of young adults feeling worried about their own bodies.

The Mental Health Foundation is concerned about the impact some television programmes, including Love Island, has on viewers – particularly those targeted at younger audiences who are most likely to be distressed about their bodies.

According to the same survey of 4,505 UK adults, by YouGov, almost a quarter of 18-24 year olds (23 per cent) said they had experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings because of concerns in relation to their body image. More than one in seven (15 per cent) said they had self-harmed or deliberately hurt themselves because of concerns about their body image.

More than a third of 18-24 year olds (34 per cent) said images used in advertising and promotion on social media made them worry about their body image.

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‘Not diverse and largely unrealistic’.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis from the Mental Health Foundation said: “Millions of people enjoy Love Island for a whole range of reasons.  Our concern is how the programme projects body images that are not diverse, largely unrealistic and presented as aspirational.

“Our research clearly shows that a large number of young people say reality TV has a negative impact on how they feel about their own bodies. Concern about body image is linked to anxiety, depression and feelings of shame and disgust.

“We had hoped that Love Island’s producers would choose a more representative range of contestants for the new series, bearing in mind the likely impact on their predominantly young audience.

”This lack of diversity is further feeding unhealthy advertising and media coverage. Love Island has issued mental health aftercare guidelines for contestants but they must also take into consideration the potential damage being done to viewers.”

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‘Potential to harm’.

Dr Kousoulis continued: “Television can play a powerful role for good in improving people’s mental health, raising awareness and tackling stigma.

“This was clearly demonstrated during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, when broadcasters, including ITV, were at the forefront of bringing useful information and advice to the nation.

“But it is not acceptable to keep allowing the aspects of television that have the potential to harm people’s mental health to go unchecked.

The charity have asked ITV to; “Work with the Advertising Standards Authority to pre-vet all advertising shown during the show’s airtime, in particular those from high risk industries, including cosmetic surgery, weight loss products, and fashion.

“Clearly publish details of the psychological support and be consistent in providing that support to contestants.

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“Take care that the final edited cuts included in the show are free of language that is shaming, discriminatory, or triggering in regards to mental health.”

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