Almost two-thirds of 15-year-old girls in Suffolk have been bullied and almost half think they are fat, survey finds

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Stock image. - Credit: Archant

A snapshot of teenage life in Suffolk has found almost two-thirds of 15-year-old girls have been bullied and almost half fear they are overweight.

A new What About YOUth? Study found that more than one in three think they are too fat (34.7%) and more than one in nine (11.9%) believe they are too thin. Almost half of girls (47.5%) in the county think they are too fat, the research also found.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was commissioned by the Department of Health to run the survey in a bid to improve the health of youngsters nationwide.

Thousands of 15-year-olds answered questions about their health, diet, exercise, bullying, alcohol, drugs and smoking.

Dr Salbu Krishnan, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Suffolk Eating Disorder Service, which is part of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), said: “The prevalence of eating disorders is increasing, and this is certainly, in part, because of peer pressure and the emphasis that celebrity magazines put on getting the perfect body.

“The increased figures indicate both an increased incidence – occurrence of eating disorders – and also increased awareness about the conditions. Early intervention is the key in preventing long term morbidity.”

In a case study issued by the NSFT, an anonymous 13-year-old girl from Ipswich said: “I compared myself to my friends and to the super-skinny models you see on television and felt under a lot of pressure.

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“I was very good at hiding it from my mum and dad, but they realised what was happening and took me to the doctors.”

Following her discharge from hospital, she received support from the eating disorders team, initially seeing a psychologist. She is now in the care of a specialist mental health nurse, who she sees every three weeks.

“The nurse I work with is lovely. She helps me so much,” she added. “I had real problems with anxiety and would get very nervous about things, but she helped me to overcome that while gradually increasing the range of foods I eat.

“I now feel a lot better. There is a big difference in my weight, and I’m really enjoying school again. I used to get very tired, but now I’ve got lots more energy and like playing sports. The service has been such a massive help for me.”

A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups said: “We know that, overall, young people in east and west Suffolk enjoy better than average good health and longer life expectancy than in many parts of the country.

“Both our CCGs are committed to ensuring our young people live long and healthy lives and are working with our healthcare partners, including the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, to ensure a positive impact on their lives.”

The survey, which questioned 15-year-olds in Suffolk, found:

- More than half (55%) have been bullied (64.3% for girls and 48.1% for boys). 15.1% have been cyber bullied.

- More than one in three think they are too fat (34.7%) and more than one in nine (11.9%) think they are too thin. Almost half of girls (47.5%) think they are too fat.

- Almost seven in 10 (68.7%) spend more than 10 hours a day sitting around at the weekend (“sedentary behaviour”).

- Almost half (49.3%) are not eating their five a day of fruit and vegetables.

- Almost seven in 10 (69.2%) have drunk alcohol. It is slightly more for girls than boys (70% to 68%). One in 20 drink alcohol at least once a week and one in 10 drink alcohol once a fortnight. One in seven (14.7%) surveyed had been drunk in the past four weeks.

- One in six believe smoking helps people cope better with life and one in 10 say smoking is not really dangerous,

- One in nine (11.7%) have tried cannabis.