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On July 11, 2023, we reported on a study published in Child and Adolescent Obesity that examined time trends in body weight perception (BWP) between 2002 and 2018 among a cross-national sample of adolescents, including gender and country differences, and the role of changes over time in country-level overweight/obesity prevalence in these trends.
Researchers used data from the World Health Organization’s cross-sectional cross-national study called Health Behavior in School-Aged Children from 2002 to 2018. The final cohort included 746 121 adolescents aged 11, 13, and 15 years from 41 countries.
Investigators found that across all survey years, 60.9% of participants had a correct weight perception, while 37.4% and 25.4% of adolescents underestimated and overestimated their weight status, respectively.
Results showed that underestimation of weight status increased over time among both genders, however, the trend was slightly stronger among girls compared with boys. Overestimation of weight decreased among both genders, with the trend also stronger among girls compared to boys.
In addition, results showed country differences in trends in both BWP and overweight/obesity. Changes over time in country-level prevalence of overweight/obesity could not explain these trends.
A note from authors
"The increase in correct weight perception and the decrease in overestimation may have a positive effect on unhealthy weight reduction behaviors among adolescents, while the increase in underestimation might be a sign for the need for interventions to strengthen correct weight perception. More research is needed to understand the factors underlying these time trends and to develop effective public health interventions."