7% of 5th graders unhappy with body size: study
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | 7:12 PM ET
Canadian children as young as 10 years old may benefit from programs to improve satisfaction with body shape, say researchers who studied the relationship between body size and happiness.
The study of 4,254 Nova Scotia fifth graders suggests girls were happiest when thinnest while boys were unhappy when they were too skinny or too fat.
"With the substantial prevalence of poor body satisfaction, public health initiatives designed to improve body satisfaction along with promotion of healthy eating and active living in children as young as 10 and 11 years are appropriate and warranted," researchers from Harvard University in Boston and the University of Alberta concluded in Thursday's issue of BMC Public Health.
The relationship between poor body satisfaction and increased risk of eating disorder behaviours such as use of vomiting, laxatives and diet pills is well established.
Body satisfaction also seems to benefit from school-based interventions, said study author Bryn Austin of Harvard.
The study was designed to look at the prevalence of poor body satisfaction in prepubescent boys and girls, and associations with body weight and socioeconomic factors.
In 2003, researchers measured the height and weight of students and asked them how much they agreed with the statement: "I like the way I look." The choices ranged from "never or almost never,” “sometimes” to “often or almost always,” and a response of "never or almost never" was considered poor body satisfaction.
Overall, 7.3 per cent of girls and 7.8 per cent of boys reported poor body satisfaction.
Poor body satisfaction was reported by 5.7 per cent of girls who had normal weights, 10.4 per cent of overweight girls and 13.1 per cent of obese girls.
Among boys, 7.6 per cent of those with normal weight said they didn't like how they look, compared with 8.4 per cent of boys who were overweight and 8.1 per cent of obese boys.
"Poor body satisfaction among males with a low BMI may reflect the cultural ideal for males to attain both muscularity and leanness; whereas among females, thinness remains the culturally defined ideal body shape," Austin said in a release.
Girls living in rural areas were 0.68 times more likely to report poor body satisfaction, after controlling for body mass index scores. BMI is used to track body-weight patterns at a population level.
"Our finding that girls who reside in rural areas, controlling for BMI, are more likely than urban girls to report poor body satisfaction may suggest that body or appearance-related pressures are higher within rural areas or perhaps that girls in urban areas benefit from existing community, school, or other programs," the study's authors wrote.
The study was funded through a grant from the the Canadian Population Health Initiative.
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