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Health Educ Res. 2001 Oct;16(5):521-32.

Association between socioeconomic status, weight, age and gender, and the body image and weight control practices of 6- to 19-year-old children and adolescents.

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  • 1Faculty of Education, University of Sydney, Building A35, NSW 2006, Australia.


The aim of the study was to examine the effect of socioeconomic status (SES), age, weight and gender on the body image and weight control practices of children and adolescents, and to investigate whether health education about weight issues should target low socioeconomic groups. The study participants were a randomly selected group of school children who completed a questionnaire, and had their height and weight measured. Participants (n = 1131) were aged 6-19 years from 12 schools in New South Wales. SES, age, gender, body weight, body image, skipping breakfast, physical self-esteem, attempts to lose or gain weight, and dietary and weight control advice received from others were examined. Log-linear, chi 2 and MANOVA analyses were used to determine interactions between variables. Low SES children were more likely to be overweight, to skip breakfast, to perceive themselves as 'too thin', to be trying to gain weight and less likely to receive dietary or weight control advice. Physical self-esteem was lowest among overweight girls of middle/upper SES and greatest among boys of low SES, despite the latter being more likely to be overweight. Being overweight does not appear to adversely affect the physical self-esteem of children of low SES, particularly boys. Health educators should examine these issues with young people to help make health education and nutrition education most relevant and appropriate.

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