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Is Underweight Associated with more Positive Body Image? Results of a Cross-Sectional Study in Adolescent Girls and Boys.


The aim of the study was to investigate the relationship between body image and prevalence of underweight, normal weight, and overweight in adolescents. The study included 1702 girls and 1547 boys, aged 14-16 years, who completed questionnaire assessing body satisfaction. The participants' BMI status: underweight, normal weight or overweight was determined on the basis of BMI cut-off values. Results revealed that more girls (p < .001) showed low body satisfaction (44.8%) and fewer girls (p < .001) had high body satisfaction (17.6%) compared to boys (28.5% and 29.0%, respectively). A two-way ANOVA revealed a significant interaction between BMI status and gender on body satisfaction F(2, 3243) = 4.10, p = .017, η2 = .003. In boys, body satisfaction was higher in normal weight and underweight in comparison to overweight individuals (p < .001). Underweight girls presented higher body satisfaction than those who were normal weight and overweight (p < .001). Our findings indicated that, in relation to gender, BMI status can be associated with different body satisfaction in adolescents. This should be taken into consideration when designing programs aimed at obesity and disordered eating prevention and body image improvement. Due to the fact that underweight girls and boys have high body satisfaction, this can lead to behaviors that maintain low body weight in adolescents and in turn this may have negative health consequences.