Girls opt out and miss out

Dove Research Infographic


Almost two thirds (61 per cent) of girls in the UK do not have high body esteem and are missing out on key opportunities in life says a new global report released today by Dove.

In the UK, 9 in 10 girls (85 per cent) state they will not spend time with friends and family, participate in activities outside the house, or try out for a team or club if they aren’t happy with the way they look. This is a significant increase from the global average of 79 per cent, showing the need for change to help girls across the country.

The 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report, which interviewed 5,165 girls aged 10-17 across 14 countries, also found that higher levels of body esteem have a lasting impact on a girl’s confidence, resilience and life satisfaction.  The most in-depth report Dove has done to-date, the findings show that a girl with low body esteem is more likely to succumb to beauty and appearance pressures, and will withdraw from fundamental life-building activities.

7 in 10 girls (71 per cent) in the UK with low body esteem feel pressure to be beautiful, with 8 in 10 girls (78 per cent) feeling worse about themselves after looking at images of ‘beautiful girls’ in magazines. This is 10 percentage points higher than the global average of 65 per cent, again emphasising the need for change.

“These findings indicate that, despite valiant efforts, body image remains an issue for girls not only in the UK, but globally, too” says Phillippa Diedrichs, Associate Professor from the Centre for Appearance Research, University of the West of England. “We still have an enormous amount of work to do in helping girls develop the resilience they need to overcome the impact of beauty and appearance pressures. We also need to change the social and cultural environment directly so that girls are not judged on their looks and are not held back from getting a seat at whatever table they want, be it in the boardroom, or in parliament, because of body image concerns.”

However, the research also uncovered pockets of hope, with 7 in 10 (70%) girls saying there is too much importance on beauty as a source of happiness, and the majority of UK girls (76 per cent) believing that every girl has something about her that is beautiful. What’s more, over two thirds (68 per cent) of UK girls recognise that they feel more confident after taking time to do things that make them feel happy about themselves, their bodies and their health, such as reading or exercising.

The report also indicates that social media is increasingly seen by girls in the UK as an outlet to confidently express their individuality, with almost half (44 per cent) saying they feel more confident interacting with people online.

“Girls worldwide are harnessing the power of social media to democratise the beauty narrative whether we are a part of it or not,” says Jess Weiner, Cultural Expert and Adjunct Professor at University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School of Journalism. “They are forming their own online communities to talk about the issues that matter most to their physical and emotional health, and flooding the space with their diverse stories and images – they are becoming the subject of their own stories and not the object of someone else’s.”

“It is hopeful to see girls are aware and taking their own steps to create change, but they can’t do it alone,” says Sophie Galvani, Global Vice President, Dove Masterbrand. “Our research shows that a girl aged 17 is more likely to experience lower happiness and life satisfaction than a 10-year-old. This is a crucial moment in a girl’s life where proactive intervention and support is needed, and that is exactly what the Dove Self-Esteem Project is designed to do – its evidence based tools, interventions and workshops are proven to help build positive body confidence in young people, and ultimately help the next generation reach their full potential in life.”

Dove has long used real women in all its advertising and marketing campaigns– a commitment they reaffirmed this year with the Dove Real Beauty Pledge. Since its launch in 2004, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has already helped over 20 million young people build positive body confidence and self-esteem, and plans to reach another 20 million by 2020.  The full global report will be released on Dove Day, an annual event in celebration of International Day of the Girl, where Unilever employees and partners volunteer time to deliver self-esteem workshops to boys and girls in their local communities. Schools and youth groups can also download and use the free tools year-round by going to

For more information and to request a report, contact