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84% of Teenage Girls in Singapore Want to

Change the Way They Look

Research reveals angst over beauty is causing low self-esteem
and withdrawal from society

 84% of Singaporean teenage girls want to change the way they look.
 81% of Singaporean teenage girls are avoiding various activities and withdrawing from
society as a result of feeling badly about their looks.
 14 is the make or break age for girls in developing self-esteem
 14.8 years is the average age at which Singapore girls get into destructive behaviors
like compulsive eating and throwing up and refusing to eat.
 Girls are most influenced by those around them - female friends and mothers.
 90% of Singaporean teenage girls feel it is important to actively engage young girls in
having a realistic and healthy body image.
 74% of Singaporean teenage girls feel there is a need to start talking to girls earlier in
their lives about what real beauty is.

Singapore, 17 January 2007 – A new survey commissioned by Dove finds that 84% of
teenage girls in Singapore wish that they could change their physical appearance.
60% of them feel bad about themselves because of looks or weight, and as a result of
their anxiety about their body weight and shape, girls are resorting to unhealthy practices at
a very early age. 5% of the teenage girls surveyed confess to throwing up or refusing
to eat in order to control their body weight, and one fourth of the girls report dieting
before reaching the age of 17. Of these girls, the average age to begin dieting is 13.9,
younger than that of girls in other Asian countries. Furthermore, 1 in 5 Singaporean girls
would consider having plastic surgery in the future to alter their physical appearance.

The study spoke to approximately 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 17 across Asia, as well
as 1,800 adult women. These results bring to light the alarming situation of young girls in
Asia today. Teenage girls feel a severe lack of confidence, believing that they are not
beautiful, and want to take action to change their physical appearance.


Aside from the headline facts about low self-esteem, the research highlights these feelings’
impact on the daily life and behavior of teenage girls.

Girls are avoiding both social and academic activity, and attributing that to the way they feel
about their beauty. This includes missing school, avoiding social occasions, and retreating
into their bedrooms as a result of low self-esteem. 81% of Singaporean girls admit to
avoiding various activities due to feeling badly about their physical appearance. Looking
at a similar global study previously commissioned by Dove, the research shows this to be
considerably higher than the 72% of girls in other parts of the world who report avoidance
under these circumstances.

Looking at the greater pan-Asian picture, when questioned about specific activities, 27% of
Asian girls say they would avoid attending social events, which effectively disenables
them from interacting with their peers. Further hindering their development, a large
percentage of girls say that low self-esteem leads them to refrain from activities that are

essential for their education, career potential, and health. 17% of girls confess to actually
skipping school, a further 18% would skip a job interview, and 17% would avoid going
to the doctor.

In Singapore, however, these figures are significantly lower, showing a more favorable
situation for Singaporean girls. 13% of Singaporean girls would avoid attending social
events, and 4% would skip school, miss a job interview, or avoid going to the doctor.
These results show that Singapore is more in line with non-Asian countries in this issue of
avoiding specific activities. For example, 12% of Italian girls report avoidance of social
events. Most non-Asian countries also report much lower incidences of missing job
interviews and avoidance of going to the doctor.

The research also demonstrates that Asian girls handle this struggle by becoming
introverted and withdrawing from normal life. 24% of teenage girls say they choose to
stay at home, and 25% watch TV, while positive responses such as exercising or talking
with family and friends, which ranked very high among North American and European girls,
ranked lower on the Asian list. Singaporean girls tend to take a more proactive approach –
21% of them would go for beauty treatments like manicuring nails or getting their hair
done, and 18% of them would exercise.


According to the research, age 14 is the time when girls across Asia first become
consciously concerned about their appearance. Self-esteem begins developing from an
early age, and this period in a girl’s life is particularly crucial. At this age girls receive
influence from a variety of sources, and the effect this has on their self-esteem will carry on
into adulthood, shaping their lives. Thus these teenage years are an especially important
time and this is when a difference can be made. For Singaporean teenage girls, 14.8 is the
average age at which they may get into destructive behaviours like compulsive eating
and throwing up and refusing to eat.


Girls themselves express that it is the other women in their lives, namely mothers and
girlfriends, who have the most influential role to play in building self-esteem. 42% of Asian
teenage girls name their female friends as the most powerful influence on their feelings
about beauty and body image, followed by mothers, named by 36% of girls. In
Singapore, the top three influencers for teenage girls are female friends (35%), media
(23%) and mothers (18%).

90% of Singaporean teenage girls feel that it is important to actively engage young girls in
having a realistic and healthy body image, and 74% agree that there is a great need to
start talking to girls earlier in their lives about what real beauty is.

Adult women also reinforce this assertion with three quarters of women agreeing that
they wish their mothers had talked with them more about beauty and beauty ideals at
an early age so as to give them more positive feelings about themselves and their own
beauty. Asian women of all ages indicate that it is the people immediately around them who
have the greatest influence on their image of beauty and body ideals, and that they would
like to have more open communication about this from an early age. The people closest to
teenage girls have the power to make an impact on their self-esteem. With this
understanding, it is clear that the ability to bring change and positive influence to develop the
self-esteem of teenage girls is fully in our hands. Girls themselves are confessing the depth

and severity of this problem, and asking for help in bringing the issue to light and taking
action to address it.


Dove recognizes the severity of the current situation and is committed to taking action to
change this. Low self-esteem affects girls and young women in every country, regardless of
age or ethnicity. This problem is real and relevant in every society, and is an issue of
greatest importance.

Dove’s mission is to make women feel more beautiful every day, and we must recognize that
this process begins during the early years when a girl’s self-esteem and awareness of
herself and her beauty is first developing. This new research demonstrates the need to take
action, and shows that society has the power and responsibility to bring about change.


Committed to improving the self-esteem of girls and young women, Dove will launch the
Dove Self-Esteem Fund. It will support both preventive and curative programmes that will
educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty and set them on a path that will
allow them to lead healthy, happy and productive lives.

The Fund will be managed and administered by SingHealth Foundation, a non-profit

organization that raises funds to support healthcare programmes that can make a difference
in the way people live.

One of the programmes that the Dove Self-Esteem Fund supports is BodyTalk, a
programme developed by Dove, in collaboration with EKA Training and SGH Eating
Disorders Awareness Programme. BodyTalk is an educational workshop for schools that
helps teenagers understand and deal with feelings about their physical appearance. The
pioneer workshops for BodyTalk started in August last year, in Ping Yi Secondary School and
Singapore Chinese Girls School. The other schools that had enjoyed the workshop include
CHIJ Toa Payoh, St. Theresa’s Convent, Hong Kah Secondary School and Yusof Ishak
Secondary School. This year, Dove will continue to bring BodyTalk to more schools.

In addition, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund will also support curative and educational
programmes organized by Singapore General Hospital’s Eating Disorders Awareness
Programme. One of the main collaborative efforts they will focus on this year is the setting
up of a resource library on Eating Disorders, to provide books and research materials on the

Dove will line up various activities with its retail partners to raise funds for the Dove Self-
Esteem Fund. This will be done through specially created Dove promotional packs.
Donations can also be made directly to the Fund via our campaign website at

Where publicity is concerned, Dove is partnering with a number of media partners, who
believe strongly in the Dove Self-Esteem Fund cause, to raise awareness for this Fund.
These partners are MediaCorp, TV12, TV Mobile, StarHub Cable, POV Media, SMRT, Clear
Channel Media, Golden Village, Heeren, MSN Singapore and AsiaOne.

- The End -

Note to editors:
“Beauty, Self-Esteem, and the Asian Teenager” was conducted by global research company
Millward Brown. The study was carried out across Asia, with girls and women participating
from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, and

“Singaporean teenage girls” refer to survey respondents who were 15-17 years old.

“Singaporean girls” refer to the entire group of survey respondents from 15-64 years old.

For more information, please contact:

Celine Tan Sharon Teo
Unilever Singapore Pte Ltd Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
DID: 6661 9783 DID: 6213 7863

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