Sedentary, dissatisfied with their physical appearance: teenagers

Greedy and sedentary, dissatisfied with their physical appearance and at the mercy of an aesthetic dictated by influencers and fashion bloggers. This is the photograph of teenagers living in Italy taken by the annual survey of the association Laboratorio Adolescenza and the research institute Iard on a nationally representative sample of 5,600 students between 13 and 19 years old.
Entitled “Adolescence Between Illusions and Fears,” the survey, presented this morning, aims to see how boys and girls are reacting to the long period of the pandemic.
Respect food and lifestyles, research shows that 58% of teenagers (69.4% of women) say that in the two years of the pandemic they ate inadequately (too much, too little, unregulated) and 37% complain of gaining weight . 27% (35.4% of women) “look” fatter than their girlfriends average. And most importantly, 50.5% (60.7%) of girls are not satisfied with their overall physical appearance.

“If it has always been true that in adolescence it is not easy to live in peace with a body in strong transformation, in this regard we can see, comparing the data from the surveys of the Laboratory of Adolescent Patio in recent years – explain the authors. of research, an effect derived from the Covid period in which social relations have been drastically reduced and the current return to normalcy. In 2020 (data collected before the outbreak of the pandemic) dissatisfaction with physical appearance affected 31% of men (today it is 39%) and 55.4% of women (today it is 60 , 7%). The percentages of ‘dissatisfied’ that year of confinements and ‘limited sociality’ had decreased (27% men and 50.1% women). It is not difficult to deduce, from these data, what part of the problem derives precisely from the comparison between oneself and others. What, moreover, must the same adolescents admit when they say (34% of men and 53.7% of girls) that in the evaluation of their physical appearance the criterion of friends and companions is important ”.

According to the research, to influence the relationship with one’s own body, and therefore also with food, the role of influencer, fashion blogger, fashion, advertising is very important. This is true for 59.1% of men and even 77.6% of girls. And conditioning increases with age, from 63.5% among high school students to 70.1% in high school. “Evidence that worries but can not surprise, if we consider that 76.1% say they have spent much more time on social media than in previous years,” he says.
On the “wish list” of liking more, for 67% of girls, being thinner is at the top, while for 57.2% of boys it is being taller (57.2%). Going from high school to high school, the “desire,” with a few exceptions, tends to increase.

“That the pandemic has led to an increase in eating disorders among adolescents,” he said. Marina Picca, family pediatrician and president of the Italian Society of Pediatric Primary Care, Lombardy Section – it is now an objective fact that comes to us from the literature and from the evidence we find in our daily work. Eating excessively and / or in a disorderly manner, recognized by the adolescents themselves, may not only have produced an objective tendency to be overweight, but it has certainly further distanced the perception of their body image from those ideals of physicality, completely abstract. , which are built through social media. The risk, at this point, is that they try, through DIY interventions, unjustified and in any case risky to approach these models. The role of the pediatrician must be precisely to prevent these behaviors, trying to actively investigate to intercept the alarm signals of dynamics that can profoundly affect not only physical well-being, but also mental balance.
Fulvio Scaparro, psychologist and psychotherapista reference in the psychological area of ​​the Adolescence Laboratory and founder of the GeA Association (Ancòra Parents) highlights: forced during confinements., we have greatly increased conflicts between parents and between parents and children and this has further crushed adolescents in their world of social media, and consequently also the weight of influencers and bloggers who specialize as role models. reference (which, however, was also present before the pandemic). It is difficult to imagine that, despite the resumption of a socially normal life, this influence, which has now entered his daily life, may diminish. “

Unsatisfactory perception of physical appearance is aggravated by widespread sedentary lifestyle., the relationship between Italian teenagers and sports activity has worsened further. Comparing the data for 2022 with those for 2020 (before the pandemic), the percentage of those who stopped doing sports (who had practiced in the past) went from 20.1% (2020) to 32.4% (2022 ), but also among those who still practice sports outside of school, the percentage of those who practice at least two hours a week fell from 62.4% (2020) to 49.5% (2022). And the data regarding girls, especially regarding not playing sports at all, is even more alarming. “Clearly, since the shutdown imposed by the pandemic in 2021, many have not resumed playing sports,” he stresses.

“It can be said with certainty that the suspension of sports activity but also more generally the drastic reduction of physical activity has represented for adolescents an additional indirect damage caused by the pandemic,” he says. Gianni Bona, endocrinologist at the University of Novara and honorary president of the Adolescence Laboratory -. It is now universally established that the practice of physical activity in an appropriate way, especially in a delicate phase of life such as adolescence, is not only the indispensable complement of a healthy diet to ensure proper development. physical, but it is also fundamental from the point of view. from the point of view of psychological development and social relations “.

A situation also highlighted by the Italian Society of Pediatrics (SIP). “The emergence of adolescence, which was already emerging before Covid, had an explosion,” he said. Giuseppe Banderali, vice president of Sip – involving increasingly early ages. We all have to be part of a chain as fundamental links, the IAPA gives its will to be part of this network because it is necessary to put an end to this tumultuous river that is affecting adolescence ”.

The research also investigated adolescents ’relationships with parents and friends which according to the data is and remains substantially good. A large majority of boys and girls find family life enjoyable or quiet, and relationships with friends are excellent or satisfying. “But in order not to be always confused when things stop working, it is important to pay attention to some alarm bells”, underline the authors of the survey.
Although minority, but certainly not negligible, the percentage of adolescents who find family life conflictive or critical (26% of girls, 16% of boys), or who find relationships with friends unsatisfactory or difficult (18.2 % of girls, 11.3% of boys) increases slowly and steadily over the years. Above all, even in the context of positive judgments there is a significant percentage of transfer from those who define family life as “pleasant” to those who define it as “quiet”. Similarly, with regard to relationships with friends, there is a percentage increase in those who define relationships as “satisfactory” to the detriment of those who define them as “excellent”.

School and university. For about half of the adolescents (48%) the school year that had just ended was – from the point of view of the effects of the pandemic – more or less as they expected in September when they returned to school. . The other abundant half, on the other hand, was divided between those who found more critical issues than expected (27.5%) and those who found less (23.3%). The percentage of people who have encountered major problems increases with age and therefore the class attends. Beyond comparison with forecasts, the survey revealed interesting assessments of students about the negative effects produced by the Covid years on overall readiness and school performance. In terms of preparation, only 30% say the effects produced were few or none, while for 70% training was penalized enough or much.. The percentage increases even more and exceeds 75% if it only refers to high school students, with no significant differences in the type of school they attend (institutes, technical or professional centers). Although the difference between men’s and women’s responses is clear: 73.2% of girls think that overall preparation has been affected compared to 64.4% of men.
But the data that worries me the mostbecause it is also an indicator of a future perspective, it is the idea of ​​teenagers to continue their studies after graduation. 63% of students surveyed plan to enroll in the University, but 33% (even 40% of men) believe they will not.. Certainly, there is a big gap between high school students and those of technical and professional institutes, but the difference in response compared to 2018 is alarming, when 76.8% planned the university year and only 22% excluded it. , 9%.

There is a widespread desire to travel, even when it comes to training. “In an age group where curiosity grows, the desire to discover oneself and others, the desire to experiment, the search for greater autonomy from the family context,” he said. Andrea Franzoi, general secretary of the Intercultural Association – the fact that they have been locked up at home with their parents for long periods, that they have attended online school, that they have not had room for real socialization, has greatly penalized them. It is no coincidence that, in obvious reaction to the unrest experienced, in 2021 Intercultura registered the largest number of subscribers (7,500) in its competition for school programs abroad. “

“As the survey data show,” Franzoi continues, “the desire to meet new people and new cultures has increased, and there is a greater consideration of the importance of the physical relationship with people. This renewed awareness is certainly a of the few positive side effects generated by the pandemic “.
“To the question would you like to study 6 months / 1 year of high school abroad, in 2020 50.5% of high school respondents answered yes, in 2021 the percentage increased by 56.1% and in 2022 it reached 49.6%, he explains. Raffaele Pirola, head of communication at Intercultura – a sign that the drive to travel is still there, but external factors related to, for example, the economic crisis and the Ukrainian war, elements that can come from the adult world and create a hood for teenagers, have probably been involved. We should be able to preserve children’s enthusiasm for external problems, “he said.

According to the survey, 77.4% of girls and 57.7% of boys are ‘very interested’ in traveling. Only 6% have little or no interest in doing so. And among travelers, only a quarter (25.8%) aim for fun. The vast majority want to meet new places (46%), but also get in touch with new people and meet different cultures (27.3%). But it is important to note that 57.8% (65.5% of women) compared to previous years has greatly increased the desire to travel and less than 10% is still influenced by Covid (and perhaps by the ongoing war) and says be more afraid than in the past. This propensity to travel, higher than that which arose in previous years, seems almost a kind of escape, even psychological, from a claustrophobic context in which adolescents have lived in recent years. (Rs-Dire)

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