Social Network and Weight Misperception among Adolescents
Mir M. Ali (),
Aliaksandr Amialchuk and
Francesco Renna ()
Additional contact information Mir M. Ali: Department of Economics, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606-3390, USA
Francesco Renna: Department of Economics, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-1908, USA
It is recognized that public health intervention targeted toward changing lifestyle behaviors to reduce overweight status is a considerable challenge. It is important that individuals recognize their overweight status as a health risk in order for an effective change in lifestyle behaviors to occur, and growing evidence suggests that actual weight and perception of weight status often do not match, especially among adolescents. In this article, we explore the extent to which exposure to heavier peers and parents affects misperception of their own weight status by adolescents. Using data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents, we estimated instrumental variable models with school-level fixed effects to account for bidirectionality of peer influence and environmental confounders. Our results indicate that individuals who live in an environment that exposes them to overweight/obese parents and heavier peers tend to misperceive their weight status and think of themselves to be of lower weight than they actually are. Our analysis also revealed differential effects by gender and type of peers.