Penn State sociologists have found that teenage girls who think they are overweight, but are not, are at more risk for depression than girls who are overweight and know it.
"Parents often worry about overweight girls`` mental health, but our findings show that it is girls who have a healthy weight but perceive being overweight who are most likely to feel depressed," said Jason N. Houle, graduate student in sociology and demography.
The researchers found that female weight pessimists -- girls who thought they were overweight but were normal weight -- or boys who were actually under weight were at high risk for depressive symptoms.
"For boys it is slightly different. There is a similar pattern with weight pessimists, but underweight boys are extremely distressed. Underweight boys are far more likely to be distressed than boys who are heavier," said Houle.
The researchers looked at data from 6,557 male and 6,126 female participants who were part of the Wave II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
The study has been reported in the current issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.