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Social media and reality TV is 'bad for body image', survey suggests

More than half of 18 to 34-year-olds feel that reality TV and social media have a negative effect on how they see their bodies, a survey has found.

The ComRes survey of 2,000 British adults for BBC 5 Live also suggested that younger people were more likely to consider having cosmetic surgery.

Some 35% of people said shows such as Love Island and The Only Way is Essex were responsible.

This figure rose to 55% in the 18 to 34-year-old age group.

ITV recently defended the advertising around Love Island, after criticism from the head of NHS England about seeing trailers for cosmetic breast surgery.

The ComRes survey also asked people whether they would consider having plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure, with the younger respondents more likely than any other group to say they would.

More than a third (35%) of that age group would think about having plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure, compared with an overall average of 20%.

BBC Radio 5 Live spoke to friends Montanna and Kristy, both 27, from Liverpool.

Kristy had breast implants after having a baby: “After the baby my boobs just went like scoops, like witches’ scoops, they were so horrible.

“They had no volume in the top and I thought ‘I’m not going on holiday and wearing a bikini like this, I’d have to put chicken fillets in. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done’.”

Kristy said before the surgery she wouldn’t let her boyfriend see her without a top on: “He adores me no matter what – he was never a boob man before I had them done, but now he’s completely changed.”

Montanna hasn’t had surgery, but seeing Kristy on a recent holiday has made her think more about it: “I just felt completely flat-chested, and you just looked so glamorous and happy and free.

“I’ve wanted a boob job since I was about 16. I’ve always put socks down my bra. I think I’d just be happier in myself, I could just wear different clothes, I wouldn’t be conscious of them, I could just relax a bit more.”

The ComRes survey also suggests a quarter of British adults have either had surgery, or know someone who has had plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure.

Montanna said they know lots of people who’ve had surgery – and social media plays a big part: “A lot of people have just put themselves into debt for it. They get it on finance, and rather than thinking ‘my priority is to get a nice house’, they’d rather look good for a nice Instagram picture.”

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Melinda Messenger started out as a glamour model. She said she had breast surgery when she was 24, going from a C cup to a D cup.

“It was so personal that I didn’t tell anyone, I needed to make an adjustment to feel more like myself.”

She said in hindsight, she wishes she had realised that it wasn’t necessary: “There’s a bit of me that goes – I wish I’d recognised that I was fine as I was.”

The TV presenter has three children. Despite her own regrets, she said she would support her daughter having a breast enlargement: “As long as it was thoroughly talked through and understood, and all the risks and consequences understood, then I would support that.”

For Montanna, she said she thinks there’s a lot of pressure to look good.

“Especially up here where we live, every girl is pretty much perfect. They’ve all had their boobs done, they’re all really thin. I think if you said to the majority of girls, ‘I’ll give you a free boob job’, I think you’d be hard pushed to find people who’d turn it down.”

You can hear the full report on the Emma Barnett Show on Radio 5 Live on Tuesday from 10:00 BST and then afterwards on iPlayer Radio.

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BBC News – Health