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Social Network and Weight Misperception among Adolescents


  • Mir M. Ali

    () (Department of Economics, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606-3390, USA)

  • Aliaksandr Amialchuk

    () (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.

Suggested Citation

  • Mir M. Ali & Aliaksandr Amialchuk & Francesco Renna, 2011. "Social Network and Weight Misperception among Adolescents," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 827-842, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:77:4:y:2011:p:827-842
    DOI: 10.4284/0038-4038-77.4.827

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    Cited by:

    1. Fortin, Bernard & Yazbeck, Myra, 2015. "Peer effects, fast food consumption and adolescent weight gain," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 125-138.
    2. Mooney, Stephen J. & El-Sayed, Abdulrahman M., 2016. "Stigma and the etiology of depression among the obese: An agent-based exploration," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 1-7.
    3. Barbieri, Paolo Nicola, 2015. "Social Distortion in Weight Perception: A Decomposition of the Obesity Epidemic," Working Papers in Economics 639, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    4. Mir M Ali & Travis Minor & Aliaksandr Amialchuk, 2013. "Estimating the Biases Associated with Self-Perceived, Self-Reported, and Measured BMI on Mental Health," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 8(12), pages 1-5, December.
    5. Gillian Santorelli & Emily S Petherick & John Wright & Brad Wilson & Haider Samiei & Noël Cameron & William Johnson, 2013. "Developing Prediction Equations and a Mobile Phone Application to Identify Infants at Risk of Obesity," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 8(8), pages 1-8, August.
    6. Mir M. Ali & Aliaksandr Amialchuk & Song Gao & Frank Heiland, 2012. "Adolescent weight gain and social networks: is there a contagion effect?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(23), pages 2969-2983, August.
    7. Ali, Mir M. & Amialchuk, Aliaksandr & Rizzo, John A., 2012. "The influence of body weight on social network ties among adolescents," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 20-34.
    8. Nie, Peng & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso & He, Xiaobo, 2015. "Peer effects on childhood and adolescent obesity in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 47-69.
    9. Martin, Molly A. & Frisco, Michelle L. & Nau, Claudia & Burnett, Kristin, 2012. "Social stratification and adolescent overweight in the United States: How income and educational resources matter across families and schools," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(4), pages 597-606.
    10. Prina, Silvia & Royer, Heather, 2014. "The importance of parental knowledge: Evidence from weight report cards in Mexico," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 232-247.
    11. Evans, Clare R. & Onnela, Jukka-Pekka & Williams, David R. & Subramanian, S.V., 2016. "Multiple contexts and adolescent body mass index: Schools, neighborhoods, and social networks," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 21-31.
    12. Cam Hebda & Jeffrey Wagner, 2016. "Nudging healthy food consumption and sustainability in food deserts," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 57-71, March.
    13. Ali, Mir M. & Rizzo, John A. & Amialchuk, Aliaksandr & Heiland, Frank, 2014. "Racial differences in the influence of female adolescents’ body size on dating and sex," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 140-152.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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