Study: Children as young as 8 are unhappy with their bodies

The study shows the children feel pressure to lose weight from the media, their families and peers. (Shutterstock)

A new study says children as young as 8 can be unhappy with their bodies and develop eating disorder behaviors later on.

Researchers followed about 6,000 children until they were 14 years old. Researchers found that at age eight, 5% of girls and 3% of boys already said they were unhappy with their bodies.

When the children reached age 14, 39% of girls admitted they had dieted in the last year. 8% of girls said they had binged.

Among boys, 12% had dieted by the time they reached age 14, and 3.5% had binged.

"We were surprised about how body dissatisfaction at that young age tracked into eating disorder behaviors at 14 years," says lead study author Nadia Micali. "I think that it is important that we adapt our interventions for younger children appropriately, as there is some evidence that for example 'healthy eating' classes that are not designed for younger children might be harmful, especially for those who do not have the cognitive ability to adequately process the information."

The study shows the children felt a lot of pressure to look a certain way and lose weight from the media, their families and peers.

Researchers say there doesn't seem to be a blanket approach to address the problem. Right now, they advise targeted prevention for overweight children, but admire more research is needed.

You can read the full study in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

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