Dr. Jodi L. Southerland, Dr. Liang Wang, and Dr. Deborah Slawson, all of the ETSU College of Public Health, have co-authored an article in the 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.
[Photo: Dr. Jodi L. Southerland (left), Dr. Liang Wang (center), and Dr. Deborah Slawson (right)]
Lead author, Dr. Southerland, is a clinical instructor in the department of community and behavioral health, while Dr. Wang is an assistant professor in the department of biostatistics and epidemiology and Dr. Slawson is chair of the department of community and behavioral health. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
The study found that approximately one-third (32.2 percent) of adolescents in Southern Appalachia misperceived their weight. According to Dr. Southerland, “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.” Moreover, the current study found minimal evidence to support the relationship between weight overestimation and health-related quality of life.
“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,” said Dr. Southerland.
Placing these findings in context, the authors suggest it is important to understand changing weight norms and peer clustering of overweight/obesity in the region. Approximately 46.4 percent of the study sample (n=1509 high school age adolescents) were overweight/obese. Consequently, adolescents in Southern Appalachia may be more accepting of a higher than normal body weight. Dr. Southerland added, “Thus, one might expect to see a positive relationship between weight underestimation and health-related quality of life and a weakening of the association between weight overestimation and health-related quality of life.”
Due to the homogeneity of the study sample and relatively small number of weight over-estimators, the authors suggest that larger studies conducted among more ethnically diverse populations are needed to confirm results.
The authors conclude that given the association between weight misperception and subjective assessments of health and well-being in the larger body of evidence, developing a common method for assessing weight misperception is warranted to permit comparisons across studies.
Maternal and Child Health Journal offers a forum for advancing scientific and professional knowledge of the maternal and child health field. Peer-reviewed papers address practice, policy, and research in the field of maternal and child health.