According to a study published in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (162 [1], 23-28), adolescent girls who perceive themselves as unpopular may be at greater risk for weight gain. The authors measured BMI and employed the Subjective Social Status (SSS) Scale, a tool used to determine how users see themselves in relation to others, to draw correlations between perceived popularity and BMI in the study subjects.

Approximately 4,500 girls aged 12-18 years provided self-reported data on their social standing and BMI over the course of 2 years. They gave information on their weekly physical activity levels and the hours they spent watching television; they also rated their feelings of depression, where they saw themselves on the popularity scale and more. Results indicated that girls who felt less popular were 69% more likely to see at least a 2-unit increase in BMI over 2 years.

“It is important that researchers consider physical, behavioral, environmental and socioemotional factors that might contribute to the rising prevalence of overweight in adolescents,” stated the study authors. Further, fitness and wellness professionals working with teenage girls might place significant focus on self-esteem-boosting tools or programs to reduce the potential for weight gain related to subjective social status. In some cases, referral to a more qualified professional may be appropriate.

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