“What’s a normal weight?” – Origin and receiving country influences on weight-status assessment among 1.5 and 2nd generation immigrant adolescents in Europe

Andreas Heinz, Gonneke W. J. M. Stevens, Helmut Willems, Matthias Robert Kern, Sophie D. Walsh

Many adolescents struggle with adequately assessing their weight-status, often leading to unnecessary weight-related interventions or preventing necessary ones. The prevalence of weight-status over- and underestimation differs considerably cross-nationally, suggesting that individual weight-status assessment is informed by cross-nationally differing standards of evaluation. For adolescents with a migration background, this brings up the possibility of a simultaneous influence of origin- and receiving country standards. The current study examines the magnitude of both influences using data from the 2014 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study. The cross-national design of the study enabled us to aggregate weight-evaluation standards for 41, primarily European, countries. Subsequently, we identified a sample of 8 124 adolescents with a migration background whose origin as well as receiving country participated in the study. Among those adolescents, we assessed the effects of origin and receiving country weight-evaluation standards using cross-classified multilevel regression analyses. Descriptive analyses revealed considerable differences in weight-evaluation standards between the countries. Regression analyses showed that both origin- and receiving country weight-evaluation standards were significantly associated cross-sectionally with weight-status assessment among the immigrant adolescents, with a stronger impact of receiving country standards. Results illustrate the context-sensitivity of adolescent weight-status assessment and reinforce the theoretical notion that immigrant adolescent development is not only informed by factors pertaining to their receiving country but also, albeit to a lesser extent, by those pertaining to their origin country.

Suggested Citation

Kern, M. R., Heinz, A., Stevens, G. W. J. M., Walsh, S. D. & Willems, H. (2020). “What’s a normal weight?” – Origin and receiving country influences on weight-status assessment among 1.5 and 2nd generation immigrant adolescents in Europe. Social Science & Medicine, 264, 113306.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113306

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