Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition
Body weight perception is associated with an individual’s intention and likelihood to participate in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as healthy eating and physical activity. Significant gender and racial/ethnic disparities in body weight perception have been observed in adults but limited studies are available for adolescents. The objective of this study was to identify gender and racial/ethnic disparities in adolescent perception of their weight status, health status and the quality of their diet.
Methods : A cross-sectional study was conducted with 1,737 adolescents (12-17 years) participating in the Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health, and Eating (FLASHE) Study, an internet-based survey study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Adolescents reported their demographic characteristics and the perception of their, weight status, diet quality, health status, and the frequency with which they consumed common fruits and vegetables in a week.
Results : The average participant was a U.S. native (98%) and a non-Hispanic white (63.7%). Genders were distributed evenly with 48.1% male and 48.5% female. Male participants were more likely to perceive themselves as underweight as compared to the female participants (X2 = 48.6; p < 0.01). Similarly, more male participants considered their health to be excellent as compared to their female counterparts (X2 =21.94; p < 0.001). There were no significant gender differences in perception of diet quality and frequency of consumption of fruit and vegetables. More non-Hispanic Blacks perceived themselves to be underweight as compared to their non-Hispanic White and Hispanic counterparts (X2 =13.66 p < 0.01). There were more non-Hispanic blacks who considered their diet to be unhealthy as compared to the other racial/ethnic groups. There were no significant differences between race/ethnicity and perception of health status or frequency of consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Conclusions : Like in adults, gender and racial/ethnic disparities in the adolescent perception of their weight status, health status and diet quality exist. Researchers and practitioners need to identify the causes of these disparities and effective ways of designing interventions that take into account the disparities.
Funding Sources : None