‘Perfectionism can be DEADLY’ | Daily Mail Online

The pressure to be perfect in modern day society significantly increases the risk of suicide, new research suggests.

Keeping up with an ever-growing list of health trends, foods and fads to achieve a sculpted body can often prove too hard for many.

The findings, made by scientists at the University of Western Ontario, are worrying, considering the pressure already placed on young girls to look ‘good’.

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, used by children as young as 13, are flooded by toned women showing off their abs, bottom and boobs.

This bombardment of images has long been known to encourage girls to adopt similar looks, with many feeling the pressure to have a ‘perfect’ body. 

The findings, made by scientists at the University of Western Ontario, are worrying, considering the pressure already placed on young girls to look ‘good’

Lead author Dr Martin Smith, who also interviewed family and friends of people who had killed themselves, said: ‘Perfectionism can be deadly.’

He told Seeker, an online news website: ‘Demanding perfection from yourself is never healthy, adaptive, or advisable.’

External pressures to be perfect 

Dr Smith noted how 56 per cent of those adults who had committed suicide displayed an ‘external pressure to be perfect’. 

The team of researchers also reviewed 45 studies to make the conclusion. The results were published in The Journal of Personality.

It backs up a body of scientific studies which have implicated the pressure to be perfect in numerous suicides in the past 50 years.

Alasdair Clayre, a talented British author, killed himself in 1984. He was a ‘harshly self-critical’ individual, psychologists noted. 

What did the study find? 

The new analysis also threw out the idea that some forms of perfectionism, such as striving academically or athletically, are without risk.


Girls now feel under pressure to look perfect from the age of just seven with a third saying they are made to feel it is the most important thing in life, according to a poll last October.

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey, the largest research of its kind, found there has been a steep decline in body confidence over the last five years among girls and young women aged seven to 21.

Only 61 per cent of them said they felt happy with how they look today, down from 73 per cent in a survey conducted in 2011. 

The annual research by the Guides Association also found 36 per cent of seven to ten-year-olds said people made them think the most important thing about them is how they look. 

Both self-inflicted pressure and that caused by society were found to contribute to suicidal thoughts, the researchers said.  

Some 11,747 participants were involved in the research, which found 13 forms of perfectionism to be linked to suicidal thoughts.

These forms included concerns over mistakes, doubts about actions, parental criticism and personal standards.

Pressures to be perfect 

Writing in the journal, the researchers added: ‘Pressures to be perfect are part of the premorbid personality of people prone to suicide ideation and attempts.’ 

Numerous factors can influence someone to commit suicide, and it is unlikely that such deaths could ever be put down to single causes.

Figures suggest that nearly one million people kill themselves every year – more than murders and war combined. Nearly 75 per cent of those are men.

Pressure to look good has been blamed for a rise in the proportion of teenage girls reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

A Government study found one in three young girls now suffer from mental health issues – a rise of 10 per cent in the past decade. 

While a poll last year showed that girls begin to feel the pressure from the age of seven. A third said they are made to feel like it’s the most important thing in life.

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details. 

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