Increasing effect of body weight perception on suicidal ideation among young Korean women: Findings from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001 and 2005
Department of Gender Equality and Social Cohesion Research, Korean Women's Development Institute, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Objective: To examine the prevalence of actual and perceived overweight and to compare the mediating effect of perceived overweight on the relationship between actual overweight and suicidal ideation among young Korean women between 2001 and 2005.
Methods: Data were gathered from the 2001 and 2005 Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys involving a nationally representative sample of young women (568 in 2001 and 385 in 2005) aged 20–29 years.
Results: Over the 5-year period, the prevalence of actual overweight (body mass index ≥23 kg/m2) and perceived overweight increased by 10.5% and 22.8%, respectively. The discrepancy between actual and perceived body weights was much wider in 2005 than in 2001. After controlling for covariates (age, marital status, educational attainment, employment status, smoking status, alcohol consumption, and regular exercise), overweight women were more likely to think about suicide than their normal-weight counterparts in both periods. However, in both periods, the association between overweight and suicidal ideation became nonsignificant when perceived weight was considered. In both periods, a self-perception of overweight was associated with an increased risk of suicidal ideation, but the association was much stronger in 2005 than in 2001.
Conclusion: This study suggests a need for educational programs or effective treatments to help young women who perceive themselves as overweight to reduce the potential risk of suicidal ideation in later life.
Keywords: body mass index, perceived body weight, body weight, body image, suicidal ideation
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