Teens who think they’re fat but are actually of normal weight have a lower quality of life than those who are obese but believe they’re of normal weight, new research suggests.
A German study of 7,000 teens between 11 and 17 years old found that 55 per cent of girls and just under 36 per cent of boys thought they were too fat in responses to a questionnaire. The study was based on data obtained between 1995 and 1998.
Only about 18 per cent of the teens surveyed were actually overweight, while 7.5 per cent were underweight. Despite that, just 36.6 per cent of the girls said they felt their weight was “just right,” while 44.1 per cent of boys felt the same way.
Conversely, 60.6 per cent of obese girls and 32.2 per cent of obese boys said they think of themselves as “far too fat.”
Obesity is considered having a body mass index of over 30, according to Canadian standards.
Looking at those teens who consider themselves overweight but aren’t, compared with those who are obese but believe their weight is just right, brings out quality of life disparities.
“A comparison of the quality of life scales of the group of adolescents who consider their weight ‘just right’ with those of the subjectively ‘far too fat’ participants reveals drastic differences,” the study reads.
Physically, obese girls had more health issues than boys, the study found. Physical issues connected to being overweight were high blood pressure, as well as high blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Obese girls also had more issues with self-esteem than obese boys, according to the research.
On the other hand, obese boys had fewer friends than their normal-weight peers and than obese girls.
But the teens of normal weight who reported they were “too fat” had severe self-esteem issues, particularly girls, and an “enormously impaired” psychological quality of life, according to the researchers. They also note that although among obese girls, family life isn’t very affected, familial quality of life among the girls who believe they are too fat is significantly worsened.
“The question arises, however, whether it is necessary for obese children and adolescents to achieve a realistic body self-image in order to promote a willingness to change if the price of this achievement is impaired quality of life,” the authors write.
The researchers also debate whether anti-obesity campaigns aimed at adolescents are doing more harm than good by making normal-weight teens feel more insecure and unhappy about their bodies and potentially leading to eating disorders.
The study is published in the June 6 issue of the online journal Deutsches Aerzteblatt International.