Mental Health Support
23 Jun 2021

With the return of Love Island to our screens looming, the question begs answering - does watching this kind of reality tv affect our wellbeing? If so, how can we enjoy it without compromising ourmental health?

In 2019, after the last season of the show Love Island, the Mental Health Foundation released statistics about the correlation between young people’s body image and reality television. It was found that “almost one in four people (24 per cent) aged 18 to 24 say reality TV makes them worry about their body image”, with many comparing the “‘perfect’ bodies” featured on programs like Love Island, with their own.

As many of these television programmes are catered to younger viewers, it is understandable that the wellbeing concerns are steered towards body image. Young people go through many physical changes that feel scary even without the comparisons made in media. The lack of diversity exhibited on these dating-centred programmes, such as Love Island and Too Hot To Handle (to name a couple), not only glorify a uniform body type/texture, but plant the idea that anything else is undesirable. 

On the other hand, pressures put onto reality television personalities to keep up a ‘perfect’ appearance on social media whilst on/off the show, may result in editing photos/tuning them to appear more flawless. This in turn not only affects the wellbeing of the contestant themselves but feeds into a misleading and unattainable body ideal on social media, eventually reaching the fans (who are, as previously stated, the younger generation). ITV’s Richard Cowles previously told the Guardian that the contestants are picked to represent an “aspirational version” of the viewer; however, this language can be damaging to a young person whose body is still developing and places a person's value solely on looks.

Love Island have announced they will be taking precautions to protect contestants mental health, with support continuing for over a year after participants have left the show. But how can the viewer, or the parent/carer of the viewer, protect their mental health?

Young Minds previously released a helpful article citing a few things to remember whilst watching. For example:

  1. There is no ‘perfect’ body
  2. The contestants have thoughts, feelings and mental health too
  3. This is a show, not real life
  4. This isn’t the only way to find love
  5. Build your confidence whilst watching - an example tip here is: "Every time you have a thought about how good someone else looks on the show, write down one thing that you like about your own body.

Young Minds also have a section of their website dedicated to body image, which contains resources that may be useful to keep in mind whilst watching. 

So, if you choose to watch Love Island, or any other show of a similar genre, be sure to look after your own wellbeing whilst you enjoy it. Remember that it is entertainment and therefore is orchestrated to be entertaining, a majority of it isn’t real. The contestants are not flawless, they are human, just like you. 

Six things to remember while watching Love Island this year

Young Minds

The harsh reality of Reality TV and mental health

Mental Health Foundation

How Love Island and other reality TV can affect our mental health

Young Minds

Reality TV fuels body anxiety in young people, says survey

The Guardian

Mental Health Foundation criticises new series of Love Island as it releases new statistics about body image and reality TV

Mental Health Foundation