Girls say the pressure to look attractive is one of the worst aspects of being female, according to a Girlguiding survey.
The poll, which questioned over 1,200 seven to 21-year-olds on a number of subjects, also found respondents blamed pressure from peers for high levels of “unprotected” sex and binge drinking.
Girlguiding UK’s spokeswoman, Cathy Fraser, said that girls are living in a “extremely stressful” world which can lead to “a range of unhealthy behaviours and outcomes”.
The spokeswoman added: “It is vital that we support girls and young women to develop their self-esteem and resilience so they can cope with it.”
Responding to a question about disadvantages to being a girl/woman, 47 per cent named the “pressure to look attractive”.
The survey, which was not restricted to Girlguiding members, also found that 70 per cent of respondents said “pressure from friends” was the reason for high levels of binge drinking among 11 to 21-year-olds.
And young women over 16 blamed pressure from boyfriends when questioned about levels of unprotected sex.
The annual Girls’ Attitudes Survey also asked questions on marriage, with the result of one question showing that nearly 90 per cent believed what was important was not just the wedding day but the long-term future.
In August Girlguiding UK called for the Prime Minister to introduce compulsory labelling to help people distinguish between ‘airbrushed’ and natural images amidst mounting concern about the sexualisation of children.
Airbrushing includes slimming images down on a computer or retouching them to accentuate certain features of the model and make her skin look flawless.
In May parents criticised a sports store for marketing a padded bra to girls aged seven.
In the month before Primark was forced to withdraw padded bikinis for seven-year-olds after critics condemned the store for fuelling child sexualisation.
Speaking before the general election, David Cameron said he plans to penalise companies who market their products inappropriately to children.
Mr Cameron said: “More and more today, sexual-provocative images are invading public space – space shared by children.
“In the Tube station, at the bus stop, on the billboard – there’s the creeping sense that we’re sleepwalking to a place where ‘porn is the norm’.”
He added: “After all, it’s our shared responsibility to protect children from aggressive commercialism and premature sexualisation.
“This is not about being prudish or old-fashioned. It’s about remembering the simple pleasures of our own childhood – and making sure our children can enjoy them too.”
Schoolgirls discuss pressure of sex