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J Paediatr Child Health. 2008 May;44(5):248-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2007.01267.x. Epub 2008 Jan 10.

Perceptions of adolescents on overweight and obesity: the weight of opinion study.

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  • 1NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



The incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity are rising around the world. Health promotion planning must be informed by the knowledge, perceptions, motivations and perceived needs of the target population, but little is known about how adolescents perceive overweight and obesity, its causes and solutions.


A cross-sectional, non-representative sample of 12- to 17-year-old boys and girls (n = 58) attending schools in diverse metropolitan areas and one rural area in NSW, Australia. Focus groups were conducted in 2005 and content analysis was used to identify key themes.


The students were aware that overweight was becoming increasingly common. They perceived the negative consequences primarily in psycho-social terms, but were also aware of the long-term physical health consequences. Behaviours, appearance, motivation and self-esteem were used as criteria to judge if a person was overweight and the students distinguished between 'healthy' and 'ideal' (physically attractive) weight. The major barriers to maintaining a healthy weight were home, school and community environments in which fatty/high sugar foods were too easily accessible and where opportunities for participating in physical activity were sometimes limited. Student-identified strategies to address the issue encompassed government policy, advertising and media, schools and home.


The students have a mature and complex understanding of overweight and its potential solutions, making them likely to be creative contributors and responsive to wide-ranging, multi-component interventions.

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