Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Public Health

Degree Type

Master in Public Health


Obesity rates have aggressively climbed in both children and adults, and notably for particular ethnic and lower socioeconomic status groups. National data from 1999-2002 have shown that approximately one-half of African-American women were obese, as compared to one-third of Caucasian women. It has been substantiated that a significant portion of overweight or obese children will become obese adults, with a number of factors identified that may influence obesity in children including gender, ethnicity, and environment. This study analyzed secondary data from The Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Survey administered to students at BGHS to identify variations in body image for particular ethnic groups and gender. SPSS was used to analyze data descriptively and inferentially to test hypotheses. Results revealed that 54.9% of participants did not report their weight status accurately, with approximately 83.8% of those participants who reported their weight to be lower than their actual weight. However, participants were more accurate when assessing the weight status of others. Significant differences were detected between males and females on self-perceived weight status. Males were more likely to underestimate their weight status significantly more than females. Results also showed that significantly more females were trying to lose weight, as well as females using a greater number of weight loss strategies in the past 30 days. No significant ethnic differences in perception of weight status, nor in the accuracy of perceived versus actual weight status was detected. Number of and types of weight loss strategies did reveal significant differences for ethnicity, with American Indian, Biracial, and Caucasian groups using exercise more often as a weight loss strategy. There was no significant difference detected between immigrants versus non-immigrants related to accuracy of perceived weight status, although a significant difference was identified with immigrants more likely than non-immigrants to perceive their weight status as lower than actual weight. While previous studies have demonstrated a relationship between ethnicity and perceived body image, this study failed to do so. However, significant gender and immigrant differences in body image perception were detected in this study. Further study of the relationship between body image, gender, and ethnicity is essential.


Public Health

Included in

Public Health Commons