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Boys and girls as young as 10 aren't always happy with their bodies

August 28, 2009 |  2:18 pm

Being unhappy with one's body has become a popular pastime, but those engaging in it are getting younger, and they're not all female.

Klat61nc Boys and girls ages 10 and 11 aren't always happy with their bodies, even if they're normal weight. Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Alberta in Canada examined data from the 2003 Children's Lifestyle and School-Performance Study, a survey of fifth graders from Nova Scotia, Canada. Height and weight measurements were taken on 4,254 students who were also asked asked to respond to the question, "I like the way I look." Reponse choices included "never or almost never," "sometimes" and "often or almost always."

Among the students, 7.3% of girls and 7.8% of boys had bad body satisfaction. Among normal weight girls, 5.7% had poor body satisfaction, among overweight girls, 10.4%, and among obese girls, 13.1%.

Among normal weight boys, 7.6% reported bad body satisfaction; among overweight boys, 8.4%, and among obese boys, 8.1%.

The higher a girl's body mass index, the more likely she was to report poor body satisfaction. However, boys were most unhappy with how they looked when they were too thin or too fat.

Researchers also discovered that girls who lived in rural areas and had parents with lower education levels were more likely to report bad body satisfaction.

The study, published this month in the journal BMC Public Health, concluded: "Given the links between body satisfaction, weight-related behaviors, and weight gain in youth, public health initiatives for overweight prevention with children may be strengthened through better understanding of factors underlying gender differences in body satisfaction and the mechanisms by which living in families with low parental education and in rural communities contribute to poorer body satisfaction among preadolescent girls."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: M. Spencer Green / Associated Press