Body image issue 'takes women backward'

LINDSAY McPHEE, The West Australian Updated March 9, 2011, 7:31 am

Though the past 100 years has brought huge advancements, body image and the sexualisation of women is the new battleground in the fight for women's rights, health and status, according to prominent women's advocates.

Body image was the topic of discussion at the Equal Opportunity Commission's International Women's Day breakfast yesterday, with an expert panel debating the effects of negative body image and eating disorders.

Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson said body image was an area "where if anything we have probably gone backwards rather than made progress".

"Research has confirmed overwhelmingly women are unhappy with their body weight, even in cases where their weight is healthy," she said. "About 74 per cent of women want to weigh less, including 68 per cent who are of healthy weight and 25 per cent who are underweight.

"These are serious and very pervasive issues and they are so potentially debilitating for young women because that preoccupation with body image can prevent them doing a lot of other things.

Butterfly Foundation chief executive Christine Morgansaid negative body image was a big factor in the development of "disordered eating" and conditions such as anorexia nervosa, which has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.

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