21% of obese teens think they are right weight

Many young teenagers are deluded about their weight, with a number whose measurements show they are obese believing they are “just the right size” or even “very/a bit skinny”.

The latest Growing Up in Ireland report to be published by the Economic and Social Research Institute later today examines the lives of 13-year-olds and how their experiences have changed since they were nine years old.

“Thirteen years of age is an important time of transition and change for young people as they undergo many emotional and physical changes in their lives and also make the transition from primary to second-level schools,” say the authors of the report.

While most of the children were in good physical health — 76% were reported by their parents to be very healthy — weight seemed to be a problem. The authors said 20% of 13-year-olds were overweight and 6% were obese.

Girls were significantly more likely than boys to be overweight or obese (30% compared with 24%).

“There is a certain level of misperception among the 13-year-olds themselves regarding their weight status,” said the authors.

For example, 21% of the 13-year-olds whose measurements indicated that they were obese described themselves as being ‘just the right size’ or ‘very/a bit skinny’.

The research is based on interviews with 7,400 young people and their families when the children were 13 years old.

Approximately 10% of the 13-year-olds said they had been bullied in the three months before their interview and 2% said they had bullied someone else.

Around 9% said they had smoked and 16% said they had had an alcoholic drink other than a few sips.

“For both smoking and drinking, the percentage who reported currently smoking and currently drinking was considerably lower than the percentage who reported having ever smoked or taken an alcoholic drink,” said the report. “This suggests that some of this activity may have been of an experimental rather than habitual nature.”

Just over 1% reported having ever used cannabis and 3% had sniffed glue. Even fewer recorded that they had ever used other illicit drugs.

When it came to education, the report found children largely had a positive attitude to school and teachers: 29% of 13-year-olds liked school very much and a further 33% liked it quite a bit. Girls liked school more than boys did.

Attitudes also varied significantly by the 13-year-old’s family background — 34% of 13-year-olds whose main caregiver had degree-level qualifications liked school very much compared with 24% of those whose main caregiver had left school at Junior Certificate level.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

By Stephen Rogers
Irish Examiner Reporter

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