By Daily Mail Reporter
More than half of young women are bullied at school because of how they look, according to a report published today.
Some youngsters miss months of education to avoid their tormentors, according to the survey.
Researchers spoke to girls in England and Wales, between the ages of 15 and 22. They found 56 per cent were abused verbally, physically or online because of their weight, height or hair colour.
Only one in five said they were personally happy with their appearance, and 53 per cent said they had since gone on a diet, according to the research by youth charity Rathbone.
Charity spokesman Peter Gibson said: 'All bullies are cowards, but persecuting the weakest takes a special kind of nastiness.
'It was heartbreaking to learn that young women had been punched and kicked simply because they couldn't afford the best clothes, or humiliated on the internet due to their size.'
Just over half of young women who were bullied said they played truant from school, with one girl missing six months of education and her SAT exams.
The main reason for bullying was weight, followed by hair colour - almost entirely girls with red hair. Other reasons included height, clothing and racism.
About 40 per cent said they missed meals to get thinner, and 17 per cent said they had been on a diet since the age of 12 or younger.
More than 60 young women were surveyed. Of these six said they had either taken laxative pills or made themselves sick to keep their weight down.
Bullied girls refused to believe nice things said about them. Although 91 per cent said their families and friends called them beautiful, one 17-year-old girl from Greater Manchester said: 'Even if Peter Andre walked into the room and told me I was gorgeous, I still wouldn't believe it.'
Encouragingly, the Rathbone report found 60 per cent of those who were abused because of their appearance thought they could turn to a friend, relative or teacher for help.
Mr Gibson said: 'The demonisation of young people is rife and there is also far too much pressure on women in particular to look a certain way.
'It is up to all of us, from teachers to parents, and magazine editors to programme makers, to celebrate women for who they are. As our survey shows, the putting-down and name-calling is simply ruining young lives.'
Many of the young women questioned came from poor backgrounds, and either lived alone or with a single parent. The majority were on the Entry to Employment programme, which gives unemployed young people skills to gain work.