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Open Access Research article

Who wants a slimmer body? The relationship between body weight status, education level and body shape dissatisfaction among young adults in Hong Kong

Yee Tak Derek Cheung1, Antoinette Marie Lee2, Sai Yin Ho3, Edmund Tsze Shing Li4, Tai Hing Lam3, Susan Yun Sun Fan5 and Paul Siu Fai Yip6*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics, School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

2 Department of Psychiatry, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, PR China

3 Department of Community Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, PR China

4 School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong SAR, PR China

5 Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, PR China

6 Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, PR China

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:835  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-835

Published: 31 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Body shape dissatisfaction has been thought to have an indispensable impact on weight control behaviors. We investigated the prevalence of body shape dissatisfaction (BSD) and explored its association with weight status, education level and other determinants among young adults in Hong Kong.

Methods

Information on anthropometry, BSD, and socio-demographics was collected from a random sample of 1205 young adults (611 men and 594 women) aged 18-27 in a community-based household survey. BSD was defined as a discrepancy between current and ideal body shape based on a figure rating scale. Cross-tabulations, homogeneity tests and logistic regression models were applied.

Results

The percentages of underweight men and women were 16.5% and 34.9% respectively, and the corresponding percentages of being overweight or obese were 26.7% and 13.2% for men and women respectively. Three-quarters of young adults had BSD. Among women, 30.9% of those underweight and 75.5% of those with normal weight desired a slimmer body shape. Overweight men and underweight women with lower education level were more likely to have a mismatch between weight status and BSD than those with higher education level. After controlling for other determinants, underweight women were found to have a higher likelihood to maintain their current body shapes than other women. Men were found to be less likely to have a mismatch between weight status and BSD than women.

Conclusions

Overweight and obesity in men and underweight in women were prevalent among Hong Kong young adults. Inappropriate body shape desire might predispose individuals to unhealthy weight loss or gain behaviors. Careful consideration of actual weight status in body shape desire is needed in health promotion and education, especially for underweight and normal weight women and those with a low education level.