Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jnmaLink to Publisher's site
J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 December; 97(12): 1608–1619.
PMCID: PMC2640720

Gender differences in body image and health perceptions among graduating seniors from a historically black college.


This study's purpose was to identify gender differences in body size awareness and perceived impact of weight on social interactions and risk for disease among young African-American adults. A cross-sectional survey of 318 African-American graduating seniors from a historically black college or university (HBCU) was conducted. Data were collected on anthropometrics, body image, ideal weight, perceived risk for disease due to weight, and impact of weight on social interactions. Only 39% of males who were overweight perceived themselves as overweight compared with 68% of overweight females. Eighty percent of females and 63% of males expressed some body size dissatisfaction. Fewer obese males (38%) perceived a risk for disease due to their weight compared with obese females (64%), p<0.01. Males perceived greater impact than females of their weight on social interactions, with extremely obese males perceiving the greatest impact. Perceived risk for disease due to weight was related to body mass index, family weight history, body awareness and income, but not body size satisfaction. Findings suggest gender differences in the self-perception of body size, accuracy of body size perception, and understanding of acceptable weight ranges. Awareness of acceptable weight ranges and consequences of overweight needs to be raised.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (2.3M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Lowry R, Galuska DA, Fulton JE, Wechsler H, Kann L, Collins JL. Physical activity, food choice, and weight management goals and practices among US college students. Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jan;18(1):18–27. [PubMed]
  • Madrigal H, Sánchez-Villegas A, Martínez-González MA, Kearney J, Gibney MJ, Irala J, Martínez JA. Underestimation of body mass index through perceived body image as compared to self-reported body mass index in the European Union. Public Health. 2000 Nov;114(6):468–473. [PubMed]
  • Chang Virginia W, Christakis Nicholas A. Self-perception of weight appropriateness in the United States. Am J Prev Med. 2003 May;24(4):332–339. [PubMed]
  • Donath SM. Who's overweight? Comparison of the medical definition and community views. Med J Aust. 2000 Apr 17;172(8):375–377. [PubMed]
  • Crawford D, Campbell K. Lay definitions of ideal weight and overweight. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1999 Jul;23(7):738–745. [PubMed]
  • Strauss RS. Self-reported weight status and dieting in a cross-sectional sample of young adolescents: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999 Jul;153(7):741–747. [PubMed]
  • French SA, Story M, Neumark-Sztainer D, Downes B, Resnick M, Blum R. Ethnic differences in psychosocial and health behavior correlates of dieting, purging, and binge eating in a population-based sample of adolescent females. Int J Eat Disord. 1997 Nov;22(3):315–322. [PubMed]
  • Steen SN, Wadden TA, Foster GD, Andersen RE. Are obese adolescent boys ignoring an important health risk? Int J Eat Disord. 1996 Nov;20(3):281–286. [PubMed]
  • Pingitore R, Spring B, Garfield D. Gender differences in body satisfaction. Obes Res. 1997 Sep;5(5):402–409. [PubMed]
  • Allan JD, Mayo K, Michel Y. Body size values of white and black women. Res Nurs Health. 1993 Oct;16(5):323–333. [PubMed]
  • Anderson Lynda A, Eyler Amy A, Galuska Deborah A, Brown David R, Brownson Ross C. Relationship of satisfaction with body size and trying to lose weight in a national survey of overweight and obese women aged 40 and older, United States. Prev Med. 2002 Oct;35(4):390–396. [PubMed]
  • James Delores C s. Gender differences in body mass index and weight loss strategies among African Americans. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Oct;103(10):1360–1362. [PubMed]
  • Thompson SH, Sargent RG. Black and White women's weight-related attitudes and parental criticism of their childhood appearance. Women Health. 2000;30(3):77–92. [PubMed]
  • Eisenberg Marla E, Neumark-Sztainer Dianne, Story Mary. Associations of weight-based teasing and emotional well-being among adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Aug;157(8):733–738. [PubMed]
  • Katz Mira L, Gordon-Larsen Penny, Bentley Margaret E, Kelsey Kristine, Shields Kenitra, Ammerman Alice. "Does skinny mean healthy?" Perceived ideal, current, and healthy body sizes among African-American girls and their female caregivers. Ethn Dis. 2004 Autumn;14(4):533–541. [PubMed]
  • Ogden J, Steward J. The role of the mother-daughter relationship in explaining weight concern. Int J Eat Disord. 2000 Jul;28(1):78–83. [PubMed]
  • Tienboon P, Rutishauser IH, Wahlqvist ML. Adolescents' perception of body weight and parents' weight for height status. J Adolesc Health. 1994 May;15(3):263–268. [PubMed]
  • Quadrel MJ, Fischhoff B, Davis W. Adolescent (in)vulnerability. Am Psychol. 1993 Feb;48(2):102–116. [PubMed]
  • Shepperd James A, Helweg-Larsen Marie, Ortega Ligia. Are comparative risk judgements consistent across time and events? Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2003 Sep;29(9):1169–1180. [PubMed]
  • Green John S, Grant Melinda, Hill Kathy L, Brizzolara Jeff, Belmont Barbara. Heart disease risk perception in college men and women. J Am Coll Health. 2003 Mar;51(5):207–211. [PubMed]
  • Lawson EJ. A narrative analysis: a black woman's perceptions of breast cancer risks and early breast cancer detection. Cancer Nurs. 1998 Dec;21(6):421–429. [PubMed]
  • Paeratakul Sahasporn, White Marney A, Williamson Donald A, Ryan Donna H, Bray George A. Sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and BMI in relation to self-perception of overweight. Obes Res. 2002 May;10(5):345–350. [PubMed]
  • Sheets Virgil, Ajmere Kavita. Are romantic partners a source of college students' weight concern? Eat Behav. 2005 Jan;6(1):1–9. [PubMed]
  • Ball Kylie, Crawford David, Kenardy Justin. Longitudinal relationships among overweight, life satisfaction, and aspirations in young women. Obes Res. 2004 Jun;12(6):1019–1030. [PubMed]
  • Myers A, Rosen JC. Obesity stigmatization and coping: relation to mental health symptoms, body image, and self-esteem. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1999 Mar;23(3):221–230. [PubMed]
  • Rogge Mary Madeline, Greenwald Marti, Golden Amelia. Obesity, stigma, and civilized oppression. ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 2004 Oct-Dec;27(4):301–315. [PubMed]
  • Resnicow K, Yaroch AL, Davis A, Wang DT, Carter S, Slaughter L, Coleman D, Baranowski T. GO GIRLS!: results from a nutrition and physical activity program for low-income, overweight African American adolescent females. Health Educ Behav. 2000 Oct;27(5):616–631. [PubMed]
  • SECORD PF, JOURARD SM. The appraisal of body-cathexis: body-cathexis and the self. J Consult Psychol. 1953 Oct;17(5):343–347. [PubMed]
  • Ireys HT, Werthamer-Larsson LA, Kolodner KB, Gross SS. Mental health of young adults with chronic illness: the mediating effect of perceived impact. J Pediatr Psychol. 1994 Apr;19(2):205–222. [PubMed]
  • Kuchler F, Variyam JN. Mistakes were made: misperception as a barrier to reducing overweight. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Jul;27(7):856–861. [PubMed]
  • Lokken Kristine, Ferraro F Richard, Kirchner Tara, Bowling Margo. Gender differences in body size dissatisfaction among individuals with low, medium, or high levels of body focus. J Gen Psychol. 2003 Jul;130(3):305–310. [PubMed]
  • Bhuiyan AR, Gustat J, Srinivasan SR, Berenson GS. Differences in body shape representations among young adults from a biracial (Black-White), semirural community: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Oct 15;158(8):792–797. [PubMed]
  • Smith DE, Thompson JK, Raczynski JM, Hilner JE. Body image among men and women in a biracial cohort: the CARDIA Study. Int J Eat Disord. 1999 Jan;25(1):71–82. [PubMed]
  • Kumanyika S, Wilson JF, Guilford-Davenport M. Weight-related attitudes and behaviors of black women. J Am Diet Assoc. 1993 Apr;93(4):416–422. [PubMed]
  • Witte K. Preventing teen pregnancy through persuasive communications: realities, myths, and the hard-fact truths. J Community Health. 1997 Apr;22(2):137–154. [PubMed]
  • Rowland ML. Self-reported weight and height. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Dec;52(6):1125–1133. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of the National Medical Association are provided here courtesy of National Medical Association