Body-Image and Obesity in Adolescence: A Comparative Study of Social-Demographic, Psychological, and Behavioral Aspects

By de Sousa, Pedro Miguel Lopes | The Spanish Journal of Psychology, July 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Body-Image and Obesity in Adolescence: A Comparative Study of Social-Demographic, Psychological, and Behavioral Aspects


de Sousa, Pedro Miguel Lopes, The Spanish Journal of Psychology


In current society, body and beauty's cult emerge as one of the main factors of adolescence. That leads adolescents to be dissatisfied with their own appearance, to psychological maladjustment, and nutritional disorders. This quantitative, exploratory, and cross-sectional research evaluates how adolescents perceive their weight and the prevalence of obesity in a sample of adolescents from the district of Viseu (Portugal). It also attempted to compare the relation of body-image and obesity with sociodemographic (school, sex, age, socioeconomic status, family functioning), psychological (self-concept, depression, school success) and behavioral aspects (physical inactivity). After data analyses, it was verified that the prevalence of obesity was 8.8% but 12.7% considered themselves obese. These adolescents had higher physical inactivity, poorer family functioning, a lower self-concept, and a higher depression index. The really obese adolescents were older and had poorer academic results. Obesity was higher in boys, but girls perceived themselves more as being obese. In conclusion, it is essential to evaluate weight perception in addition to body mass index (BMI), because the main problem could be related not only to being obese, but also to the perception of having a higher than ideal weight.

Keywords: body-image, obesity, social-demography, psychology, behavior

En la sociedad actual, el culto al cuerpo y la belleza emergen como uno de los principales factores en la adolescencia. Esto lleva a los adolescentes a sentirse insatisfechos con su propio aspecto, al desajuste psicológico y a los trastornos de alimentación. Esta investigación cuantitativa, exploratoria y transversal evalúa cómo los adolescentes perciben su peso y la prevalencia de la obesidad en una muestra de adolescentes del distrito de Viseu (Portugal). También intenta comparar la relación entre imagen corporal y obesidad con aspectos sociodemográficos (escuela, sexo, edad, nivel socioeconómico, funcionamiento familiar), psicológicos (autoconcepto, depresión, eventos escolares) y comportamentales (inactividad física). Después de analizar los datos, se verificó que la prevalencia de la obesidad era de 8,8% pero que un 12,7% se consideraban obesos. Estos adolescentes tenían un mayor nivel de sedentarismo, un funcionamiento familiar peor, autoconcepto más bajo y un alto índice de depresión. Los adolescentes realmente obesos eran mayores y tenían peores resultados académicos. La obesidad era más alta entre los chicos pero las chicas se percibían como obesas. En conclusión, es fundamental evaluar la percepción del peso además del índice de masa corporal porque el problema principal podría estar relacionado no sólo con ser obeso, sino también con la percepción de tener un peso mayor que el peso ideal.

Palabras clave: trauma, atentados terroristas, estrés, depresión, resiliencia, epidemiología

The current life style, based on advanced technologies, contributes to the decrease in levels of physical activity and leisure, a phenomenon associated with the increase in consumption of hypercaloric foods and obesity. Simultaneously, social pressures push for thinness, according to rigid standards for beauty that demand ever thinner anthropometric profiles (Bosi, Luiz, Morgado, Costa, & Caravalho, 2006). In fact, social representations of the ideal body are anchored in images of youth, beauty, vigor, and health. Social communications media perpetuate this "obsession with appearance" that society itself constructs. Seeking to identify with a social group has brought Man to conformity and approximation to these standards, causing the emergence of the concept of the "deviant individual" indicating anyone who fails to meet these standards. These individuals are considered to have an imperfect body, causing feelings of inadequacy and discriminatory feelings on the part of others (Santos & Sawaia, 2000).

That is, body image seems to be a concept of growing importance in our daily lives, defined as the mental image of our own body, which is, the method by which we present or experience our own bodies (Bosi et al. …

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