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Southern Cal Study Links Weight, Self Esteem and Grades in Chinese Teens

Southern Cal Study Links Weight, Self Esteem and Grades in Chinese Teens


      Chinese teens who consider themselves fat are at an increased risk for depression and school-related stress, according to a new study by the University of Southern California.

      Girls who said they were overweight had an overall average GPA of 3.06 versus 3.20 for other girls, according to the study of nearly 7,000 middle- and high-school students in seven Chinese cities.

      A perception of obesity also altered the behavior of male students in the study. Boys who considered themselves overweight were more prone to rudeness and losing their tempers. The study appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior.

      “Thin as the ideal body type is a relatively new standard in China, a trend fueled by increased wealth and media exposure to Western lifestyle,” says lead author Dr. Bin Xie, an assistant research professor in the USC School of Social Work.

      Weight perception may trump actual body weight in predicting negative psychological effects, Xie say. The students who exhibited the unhealthy attitudes considered themselves overweight, even if they were a normal weight.

      “The major point here is that misperception has an important impact on academic performance and a person’s psychological experience,” Xie says.

      In another study published in the March edition of Preventive Medicine, Xie found that Chinese youth’s unhappiness with their weight was significantly related to Western media exposure. Some of the girls studied cited the media exposure as their reason for adopting unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking.

      “The studies underscore the importance children place on body image,” Xie says.

      The data for the two studies came from an ongoing longitudinal health promotion study of Chinese adolescents in seven large cities on the Chinese mainland.

      The research was supported by the USC Pacific Rim Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Sidney R. Garfield Endowment.

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