We investigated behavioural and socio-economic factors associated with obesity and weight dissatisfaction among Finnish adolescents.
A total of 60252 Finnish adolescents aged 14 to 16 years filled in a questionnaire about their health, health behaviour and socio-economic background. Food choices were obtained by using a short food-frequency questionnaire. Obesity was defined as a weight at least 120% of the sex- and height-specific mean weight for subjects.
Of girls and boys, 54% and 66%, respectively, were satisfied with their weight. Among dissatisfied normal-weight adolescents, 81% of girls but only 48% of boys thought they were overweight. Of obese boys, 25% were satisfied with their weight. For both genders, obesity and weight dissatisfaction were associated with economic problems in the family. In girls, an association was also found with poor school performance, low educational level of parents and not having evening meals at home; and in boys, with physical inactivity and not eating school lunch. Smoking was more common among girls who were dissatisfied with their weight. Differences in food choices were small between different weight and weight satisfaction categories.
Having normal weight and being satisfied with that weight are favourable for an adolescent. Obesity and weight dissatisfaction are associated mostly with disadvantageous health behaviours and low socio-economic status. Health behaviour seems to be associated more with weight satisfaction than with actual weight.