Prevention Science

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 152–163 | Cite as

Cross-sectional and Prospective Examination of Weight Misperception and Depressive Symptoms Among Youth with Overweight and Obesity

  • Idia B. Thurston
  • Kendrin R. Sonneville
  • Carly E. Milliren
  • Rebecca C. Kamody
  • Holly C. Gooding
  • Tracy K. Richmond


This study aims to determine the association between weight misperception (considering oneself average or underweight) and depressive symptoms among youth with overweight/obesity. Linear regression models (adjusted for age, BMI, parental education, percent poverty) were used to examine cross-sectional (wave II, 1996, n = 3898, Mage = 15.9, SD = 0.13) and longitudinal (from wave II to IV, 1996–2008/2009, n = 2738, Mage = 28.5, SD = 0.06) associations between weight misperception and depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale) in a subsample of White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Multi-racial male and female youth with overweight/obesity participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Average BMI was 29.0 (0.16) at wave II and 35.7 (0.23) at wave IV. Thirty-two percent misperceived their weight status as average weight (n = 1151, 30 %) or underweight (n = 99, 3 %). In fully adjusted cross-sectional models, White (β = −1.92, 95 % CI = −2.79, −1.06) and Multi-racial (β = −4.43, 95 % CI = −6.90, −1.95) youth who perceived themselves as average weight had significantly lower depressive symptoms compared to accurate weight-perceivers. In fully adjusted longitudinal models, White youth (β = −0.41, 95 % CI = −0.81, −0.004) who perceived themselves as average weight had significantly lower depressive symptoms 12 years later. Findings suggest that weight misperception may be protective against depression among White adolescents and young adults with overweight/obesity. Clinical and population interventions should consider potential harmful effects of correcting weight misperceptions on the mental health of youth with overweight/obesity.


Weight perception Depression Overweight/obesity Race/ethnic differences 


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Idia B. Thurston
    • 1
  • Kendrin R. Sonneville
    • 2
    • 3
  • Carly E. Milliren
    • 4
  • Rebecca C. Kamody
    • 1
  • Holly C. Gooding
    • 3
  • Tracy K. Richmond
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Division of Adolescent and Young Adult MedicineBoston Children’s HospitalBostonUSA
  4. 4.Clinical Research CenterBoston Children’s HospitalBostonUSA

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