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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


BARRETT, Sheila C.  and  HUFFMAN, Fatma G.. Comparison of self-perceived weight and desired weight versus actual body mass index among adolescents in Jamaica. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2011, vol.29, n.4, pp.267-276. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: To compare self-perceived body size, desired body size, and actual body mass index (BMI) among adolescents in Jamaica, and to discuss the implications of these perceptions for chronic disease prevention. METHODS: A total of 276 Jamaican adolescents 14-19 years of age, randomly selected from grades 9-12 at 10 high schools participated in the study, which was conducted in October 2007. The perceived and desired BMI were measured using a silhouette of body figures representing nine BMI categories for males and females; these were compared to participants' actual BMI. RESULTS: Mean age was 15.6 ± 1.2 years. Actual BMI values classified 24.6% of the participants as underweight; 39.9% as normal; 14.5% as overweight; and 21% as obese. There were significant differences between participants' actual and perceived BMI (P < 0.01), actual and desired BMI (P < 0.01), and perceived and desired BMI (P < 0.01). Gender was significantly different for actual (P < 0.05), perceived, and desired BMI (P < 0.01). Females had significantly higher actual mean BMI than males (P < 0.05). Adolescent males perceived themselves as having a higher BMI and a desired higher BMI than females. There were no differences among ethnicity, age, place of residence, and socioeconomic status on the actual, perceived, and desired BMI in this study population (P > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Females had higher actual BMI and lower perceived BMI than males. Jamaican adolescents, irrespective of ethnicity, age, place of residence, and socioeconomic status, had similar BMI. Interventions are needed to improve knowledge of a healthy body weight and the relationships among body weight, lifestyle choices, and the implications of excess body weight on chronic diseases.

Keywords : Adolescent health; adolescent nutrition; body composition; body mass index; overweight; obesity; Jamaica.

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