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J Transl Med. 2014 Feb 11;12:42. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-12-42.

Body image and weight perceptions in relation to actual measurements by means of a new index and level of physical activity in Italian university students.

Author information

1
Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences, University of Ferrara, Corso Ercole I d'Este 32, 44121 Ferrara, Italy. sabrina.masotti@unife.it.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Body image perception depends on anthropometric and psychological factors. Body dissatisfaction is influenced by the socio-cultural environment and is associated with eating disorders and low self-esteem. This study examined the body image perception, the degree of dissatisfaction and the weight status perception inconsistency in relation to sex, weight status and amount of physical activity in a sample of university students.

METHODS:

The participants were 734 university students (354 females aged 21.5 ± 2.9 yrs and 380 males aged 22.1 ± 3.6 yrs) recruited from the second year of the Sport Sciences degree program. A self-administered questionnaire was used to acquire socio-demographic and sport participation information. Height, weight, BMI and weight status were considered for each subject. Body image perception was assessed by a silhouette matching technique. A new index, FAI (Feel status minus Actual status Inconsistency), was used to assess weight status perception inconsistency.

RESULTS:

A large proportion of the sample had normal weight status. On average, females chose as feel status a significantly higher figure than the males (4.7 versus 3.8) and they would have liked to have a significantly thinner figure than the males (3.4 versus 3.6). Therefore, the mean FID (Feel minus Ideal Discrepancy) values (positive in both sexes) were significantly higher in females than in males, meaning higher dissatisfaction. The mean FAI values were positive in females and negative in males, indicating a tendency of the women to overestimate their weight status and of the men to underestimate it. Men were more physically active than women. Less active women showed significantly lower body weight and BMI than more active women. Men less engaged in physical activity showed significantly higher FID than more active men.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results show greater dissatisfaction and higher weight status perception consistency in females than in males among Italian university students examined. Our findings suggest that the FAI index can be very useful to evaluate the perceived weight status by body image in comparison to actual weight status assessed anthropometrically.

PMID:
24512483
PMCID:
PMC3923553
DOI:
10.1186/1479-5876-12-42
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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