Social Network and Weight Misperception among Adolescents

Mir Ali, University of Toledo
Aliaksandr Amialchuk, University of Toledo
Franceso Renna, Univeristy of Akron

Public health interventions targeted towards changing lifestyle behaviors to reduce overweight is a considerable challenge. It is important that individuals recognize their overweight status to be a health risk in order for an effective change in lifestyle behaviors to occur and growing evidence suggest that actual weight and perception of weight status often do not match especially among adolescents. This paper examines the extent to which adolescents that are exposed to overweight parent and peers are likely to misperceive their weight status. Using data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents we estimate instrumental variable models with school level fixed effects to account for bi-directionality of peer influence and environmental confounders. Our results indicate that individuals who live in an environment that exposes them to obese parent and heavier peers are more likely to misperceive their weight status and think of themselves to be of lower weight than they actually are.

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Presented in Session 45: Social Determinants and Consequences of Body Weight