Teenagers living around obese or overweight children, who tend to be obese or overweight, think they are ideal, a new study suggests. Lead researcher Ashlesha Datar, of the University of Southern California, said: “Higher obesity rates may normalize unhealthy weight in adolescents and make obesity prevention more difficult.”
For the study, Datar’s team collected data on 401 teenagers who participated in a study of U.S. military families between December 2017 and July 2018. Young people and their parents completed an online survey of teenagers’ height, weight and other factors.
Young people were then shown a group of portraits of different sizes and asked to choose the portrait closest to their ideal. Teenagers in counties with higher rates of obesity were more likely to choose larger profiles than those in counties with lower rates of obesity.
Datar said that because of the military tasks of parents, adolescents are exposed to counties with higher or lower rates of obesity, creating a natural experiment to understand how obese people affect their normal body size and risk of obesity. But it’s not clear how to change the environment of teenagers and make them feel healthier.