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Overweight perception among adolescent girls in relation to appearance of female characteristics
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Division of Clinical Sciences. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Department of Food and Environmental Sciences, Division of Nutrition, University of Helsinki, Finland..
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Östergötlands Läns Landsting, Local Health Care Services in Central Östergötland, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Linköping.
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Division of Clinical Sciences. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Östergötlands Läns Landsting, Center of Paediatrics and Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Department of Paediatrics in Linköping.
2014 (English)In: Paediatrics and Health, ISSN 2052-935X, Vol. 2, no 1, 1-7 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Overweight perception has been shown to be important for health related adolescent behavior, particularly in girls. Body perception may be affected by bodily changes, especially changes visible for others. Female pubertal development is characterized by many physical changes, such as accelerated growth and altered body fat distribution. This study examined the role of appearance of female characteristics in the risk for overweight perception among healthy adolescent girls.

Methods: 220 girls, aged 11–16, provided self-reports on body perception and pubertal maturation before anthropometric measurements of height, weight, hip and waist circumference (WC). Logistic regression modeling was used to study the appearance of pubertal characteristics in relation to body perception.

Results: Of the 76 girls (35%) perceiving themselves as overweight, only 14 and 36 girls were overweight according to body mass index and waist circumference respectively. Girls reporting breast development and acne (n=144) were more likely to perceive themselves as overweight than girls who did not report this appearance (n=76). These findings persist after adjusting for overweight according to WC. Non-overweight (n=170) rather than overweight girls reporting characteristics (n=50) were at risk of perceiving themselves overweight.

Conclusions: Girls may confuse natural changes occurring during adolescent development with being overweight. It is therefore important to improve the understanding about the physical changes that normally occur during puberty along with the girls' own perception of these bodily changes among girls themselves, their parents, at schools, and other healthcare services.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Herbert Open Access Journals , 2014. Vol. 2, no 1, 1-7 p.
Keyword [en]
Adolescent girls, self-reports, body perception, female pubertal development, anthropometric measurements
National Category
Clinical Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-113130DOI: 10.7243/2052-935X-2-1OAI: diva2:778824
Available from: 2015-01-12 Created: 2015-01-12 Last updated: 2016-01-12
In thesis
1. Balancing body perception during growth and development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Balancing body perception during growth and development
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Among children and adolescents, the drive to be slender and the fear of being fat is a growing public health concern. This trend stands in contrast to the increasing prevalence of overweight reported worldwide. Both feeling too fat and being overweight are associated with physical, psychological and social health-related issues from a shortand long-term perspective. The aim of this thesis is to study body perception in relation to actual body size and the bodily changes that occur naturally during puberty. Another objective is to identify risk factors for overweight, overweight perception and unhealthy eating habits in childhood and adolescence.

This thesis describes the prevalence of 1) perception of overweight, 2) overweight/obesity and 3) unhealthy eating habits in Finland and Sweden. We compare our results with the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Behaviour in Schoolchildren (HBSC) survey in 2001/2002 and 2009/2010. Our cross-sectional studies were performed on a female cohort of 11-18 year old girls in Finland and a cohort of boys and girls 7-17 years in Sweden.

In both Finland and Sweden, the prevalence of overweight increased over time, especially among boys. Also perception of overweight increased over time – not just among girls, but also among boys. We found social inequality in overweight, particularly in boys in relation to maternal socioeconomic status. No social inequality, but age and gender differences were found in relation to perception of overweight, where girls older than 13 years showed the highest prevalence. Body perception among girls agreed better with international reference values for waist circumference (WC) than for body mass index (BMI). Breast development and acne increased the risk for overweight perception, particularly among non-overweight girls. Perception of overweight was the strongest risk factor for dieting and skipping breakfast in both boys and girls. These behaviours were more common among adolescents than among younger boys and girls. Skipping breakfast was related to unbalanced food consumption patterns in both sexes, but in a gender-specific way.

We have shown that body perception during growth and development relates to a complex age- and gender-specific balance between body size, stage and timing of pubertal maturation, eating habits as well as parental and peer influences. From a broader perspective, improving adequate body perception entails optimising this balance by influencing one or more of the individual, societal and environmental factors that determine health outcomes among children and adolescents, tracking into adulthood.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2015. 73 p.
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1482
National Category
Pediatrics Nutrition and Dietetics Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Clinical Medicine
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-123861 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-123861 (DOI)978-91-7685-947-6 (Print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-12-10, Berzeliussalen, Campus US, Linköping, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2016-01-12 Created: 2016-01-12 Last updated: 2016-01-13Bibliographically approved

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Gustafsson, Per ANelson, Nina
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Division of Clinical SciencesFaculty of Health SciencesChild and Adolescent PsychiatryDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in LinköpingDepartment of Paediatrics in Linköping
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