Body image and obesity among Australian adolescents from Indigenous and Anglo-European backgrounds: implications for health promotion and obesity prevention among Aboriginal youth

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This study examines the relationship between body image and obesity, among 4367 indigenous and Anglo-European adolescents in Australia in 2006. It shows that indigenous adolescents, male and female, were more likely than their non-indigenous counterparts to desire and pursue weight gain. Indigenous males showed the greatest tendencies to gain weight and to perceive that they should build up their bodies. They also received the strongest parental advice to eat more, lose weight, do more exercise, do less exercise, and heed warnings that they were not eating enough. The percentage distribution of weight, from obese through to underweight, was not significantly different between indigenous and Anglo-European adolescents. Poor body image among obese adolescents was similar in all groups. This article concludes that indigenous Australian adolescents are more likely to desire weight gain and receive more parental and family advice about the desirability of gaining weight. Indigenous adolescents from around the world may have to grapple with conflicting cultural perceptions involving their own self-image, parental coercion and peer group pressure. Therefore, before planning and designing health education programs for indigenous young people, educators and health professionals should consider cultural attitudes lest they inadvertently create weight concerns, confuse or contradict healthy lifestyle messages.


School of Education

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Journal Article

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