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University News

Trio looks at weight misperception, quality of life in youth
Dr. Jodi Southerland

JOHNSON CITY (Aug. 17, 2016) – Three faculty members in East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health have co-authored an article recently published in Maternal and Child Health Journal.

The article, “Weight Misperception and Health-Related Quality of Life in Appalachian Adolescents in the United States,” shows that weight underestimation by adolescent males is associated with higher health-related quality of life.

The study found that approximately one-third (32.2 percent) of adolescents in Southern Appalachia misperceived their weight.

“We found no association between weight misperception and health-related quality of life among females, but did find that adolescent males who underestimated their weight status reported significantly higher total health-related quality of life as well as physical and psychosocial health when compared to those who accurately perceived their weight status,” said Dr. Jodi Southerland, lead author and clinical instructor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health. “To our knowledge this is the first study to examine the relationship between weight misperception and health-related quality of life among a non-clinical sample of U.S. adolescent males and females.”

Interestingly, the study found minimal evidence to support any relationship between weight overestimation and health-related quality of life. That, Southerland explained, could be because adolescents in Southern Appalachia may be more accepting of a higher-than-normal body weight. “It is important to understand changing weight norms and peer clustering of obesity in the region,” she explained. “Approximately 46.4 percent of the more than 1,500 high school age adolescents in the study were overweight or obese.”

Southerland and her co-authors, Dr. Liang Wang from the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, and Dr. Deb Slawson from the Department of Community and Behavioral Health, conclude that given the association between weight misperception and subjective assessments of health and well-being, developing a common method for assessing weight misperception is warranted to permit comparisons across studies.

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