A study was undertaken to determine body image satisfaction and perception among newly entrant girl students (17-22 years) of a professional institution. In the present study nearly 83.33% rated their perceived body image from good to excellent while overall 13.54% were dissatisfied with their image. Our study reports a relatively lower proportion of body image dissatisfaction among college going girl students in comparison with other selected studies done at international platform. The study methodology may differ but on review of literature, level of body image dissatisfaction ranged from 33% (China), 34.9% (Australia), 45% (Greece), 47.3% (Brazil), 50% (Taiwan), 56% (Norway), 29.8% and 56.7% (Turkey), 69% (European Union), and 73.3% (USA).[10
] Probably culture, upbringing, professional stature and ethnicity may be some predominant factors behind high body image satisfaction, as another study carried out in UK also reported that Asian women were less likely to describe themselves as too fat, were less dissatisfied with their body size, and less likely to want to lose weight in comparison with white women.[19
] The other possibility of low dissatisfaction could be that the first year students have just emerged from the protected environment of their family and may throw surprising results if study is repeated after few years when they are exposed to more competitive situations later in life. On the contrary, a study conducted amongst all resident medical female students in south India reported image dissatisfaction to the tune of 33.3%.[20
Similar results were observed from another study conducted in Karnataka, with 29.1% underweight girl students but only 3.2% being overweight while more than 65% perceived themselves to be either slim or thin.[21
] A study carried amongst nursing students (mean BMI: 20.14) in West Bengal also revealed double burden of nutritional disorder with prevalence of faulty weight perception of 38.6% and was found to be weighted towards feeling higher weight.[22
] In study conducted in Delhi, half of overweight/obese youth had low body satisfaction, while one-quarter of the non-overweight youth felt the same; among overweight/obese youth, girls were more likely than boys to perceive themselves as overweight (P
=0.047) and to have low body satisfaction (P
] In Lucknow, 73.4% adolescent girls were satisfied with their body image, while 26.6% were dissatisfied.[24
In the present study (mean BMI: 20.13), nearly 15.62% perceived themselves to be overweight/obese while actually 11.54% could be grouped into this category (BMI >23 kg/m2). Similarly, 8.33% perceived themselves to be underweight/lean but infact 29.16% were found to be so (BMI <18.5 kg//m2). Students with low weight (BMI <18.5 kg/m2) had a significantly higher (85.71%) prevalence of body image satisfaction while overweight students (BMI ≤23 kg/m2) had a significantly higher (54.54%) prevalence of dissatisfaction (P<0.001). Body image satisfaction had significant relationship with BMI and waist–hip ratio in the present and was similar to as reported in other studies. Further, higher proportion of dissatisfaction was found amongst subjects with higher level of mother's education probably due to increased aspiration and expectations in life.
The burden of under-nutrition including anemia is widespread amongst Indians especially the vulnerable groups. According to community based National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3 survey, nearly 36% of women are undernourished (BMI <18.5) while the percentage of married women age 15-49 who are overweight or obese, increased from 11% in NFHS-2 (1998-99) to 15% in NFHS-3 (2005-06) and almost half of the girls in age 15-19 were undernourished. District Level Household Survey (DLHS) and Indian Council of Medical Research surveys have repeatedly shown that over 70% of pre-school children, adolescent girls and pregnant mothers are anemic.[25
] Akin to this observation, our study also reflected similar situation with 75% of girls being anemic who need adequate and priority management. Authors acknowledges some of the limitations of our study such as small sample size; possibility of under-reporting; non-use of scales like visual analog, figure rating or contour drawing comparison scale etc. Similar studies may be undertaken at other centers in India to determine frequency/variations/trends overtime with inclusion of male member of society also.
To conclude, high body image satisfaction is reported in this study and found to be significantly related to anthropometric measurements. On an encouraging note, this level needs to be preserved for overall mental and healthy development of students. Proactive preventive measures could be initiated in institutions on personality development, acceptance of self and individual differences while maintaining optimum weight and active life style.