Trends in Adolescent Overweight Perception and Its Association With Psychosomatic Health 2002-2014: Evidence From 33 Countries

Type Article

Journal Article


R. Whitehead; C. Berg; A. Cosma; I. Gobina; E. Keane; F. Neville; K. Ojala; C. Kelly

Year of publication



J Adolesc Health








PURPOSE: Perceiving oneself as overweight is common and strongly associated with adolescents' subjective well-being. The prevalence of overweight perceptions and their impact on well-being may have increased over the past decade due to an increase in the salience of weight-related issues. This study examines trends (2002-2014) in the prevalence of adolescent overweight perceptions and their association with psychosomatic complaints. METHODS: Data from 15-year-old adolescents were obtained between 2002 and 2014 in four rounds of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study in 33 countries in Europe and North America (N = 187,511). Design-adjusted logistic regressions were used to quantify changes in overweight perceptions over time. Linear modeling was used to assess change in the association between perceived overweight and self-reported psychosomatic complaint burden, adjusting for overweight status. RESULTS: Among boys, 10 of 33 countries saw an increase in overweight perceptions between 2002 and 2014, with Russia, Estonia, and Latvia showing the most pronounced year-on-year increases. Only England, France, Germany, and Norway saw an increase in the positive association between overweight perceptions and psychosomatic complaints among boys. Among girls, most countries (28/33) saw no change in the prevalence of overweight perceptions, with the prevalence over 40% in most nations. However, in 12 countries, the association between overweight perceptions and psychosomatic complaints increased among girls, with particularly strong changes seen in Scotland and Norway. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence is presented which suggests that for adolescent girls in 12 Northern and Western European countries and for boys in four perceiving oneself as overweight may be increasingly deleterious for psychosomatic health.