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Weight misperceptions among American teens.

A recent Ball State University study found there were significant misconceptions among America's youth about what constitutes overweight, according to "Overweight Misperceptions among Adolescents in the United States," published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing (Fan, Jin, and Khubchandani; July 31, 2014).

Forty-five percent of all adolescents studied were trying to lose weight, even if they didn't need to--with one in five trying unhealthy weight-loss methods such as fasting or using laxatives. In contrast, teenagers who accurately understood their appropriate weight range were more likely to use an improved diet and physical activity to drop pounds.

A gap was found to exist between perception and reality of who is truly overweight. Less than a third (29.3 percent) of adolescents believed they were overweight. Girls were more likely to feel they were overweight (35.4 percent) than boys (23.7 percent). Ironically, according to the study, 24.2 percent of girls and 32.1 percent of boys were actually overweight.

The study additionally found:

* The highest numbers of overweight adolescents were found among black youth (36.5 percent) and Hispanics (34.6 percent) compared to white adolescents (24.6 percent).

* Misperception of weight varied by race, with black females being least likely to believe they were overweight even if they were. While only 30.9 percent of black females thought they were overweight, 37.5 percent actually were overweight.

* Adolescents with poor grades were less likely to have an accurate weight perception.

* Adolescents suffering from depression or who had previously attempted suicide were more likely to believe they were overweight and try dangerous methods to lose weight.

"We found high and persistent prevalence of weight misperception among ninth through 12th grade U.S. schoolchildren," said study co-author Maoyong Fan, a professor in Ball State's Department of Economics. "What is even more disconcerting is the high rate of overweight status in adolescents nationwide. The associated misperception is a hindrance to all interventions aimed at reducing childhood obesity."

Study corresponding author Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor in Ball State's Department of Physiology and Health Science, added, "Childhood obesity is a complex issue. In addition to actual body weight of children, self-perception of weight should also be considered while planning activities to reduce childhood obesity."


Fan, M., Jin, Y., & Khubchandani, J. (2014, July 31). Overweight misperception among adolescents in the United States. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. Retrieved from article/pii/S0882596314002048

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Publication:Camping Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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