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Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Jun;32(6):1008-15. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.15. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Do you see what I see? Weight status misperception and exposure to obesity among children and adolescents.

Author information

  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McGill University, MontrĂ©al, Canada. katerina.maximova@mcgill.ca

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Obesity prevention in childhood is important. However, changing children's lifestyle behaviors to reduce overweight is a substantial challenge. Accurately perceiving oneself as overweight/obese has been linked to greater motivation to change lifestyle behaviors. Children and adolescents may be less likely to perceive themselves as overweight/obese if they are exposed to overweight/obese people in their immediate environments. This study examined whether youth who are exposed to overweight parents and schoolmates were more likely to misperceive their own weight status.

DESIGN:

The Quebec Child and Adolescent Health and Social Survey was a provincially representative, school-based survey of children and adolescents conducted between January and May 1999.

SUBJECTS:

3665 children and adolescents (age 9, n=1267; age 13, n=1186; age 16, n=1212) from 178 schools. Mean body mass index (BMI) was 17.5, 20.6 and 22.2 kg/m(2), respectively.

MEASUREMENTS:

The misperception score was calculated as the standardized difference between self-perception of weight status (Stunkard Body Rating Scale) and actual BMI (from measured height and weight). Exposure to obesity was based on parent and schoolmate BMI.

RESULTS:

Overweight and obese youth were significantly more likely to misperceive their weight compared with non-overweight youth (P<0.001). Multilevel modeling indicated that greater parent and schoolmate BMI were significantly associated with greater misperception (underestimation) of weight status among children and adolescents.

CONCLUSION:

Children and adolescents who live in environments in which people they see on a daily basis, such as parents and schoolmates, are overweight/obese may develop inaccurate perceptions of what constitutes appropriate weight status. Targeting misperception may facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors and improve the effectiveness of obesity prevention interventions.

PMID:
18317474
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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