- Body+images.pdf (913k)
Background: Culture affects body image and body size perceptions from an early age and in many African countries, overweight has been associated with richness, health, strength, and fertility. The present study investigated body size perceptions and preferences in an African refugee population. Methods: The cross-sectional study was comprised of 180 and 175 randomly selected Saharawi women and men, respectively, between 18 and 80 years. Stunkard’s body figure scale was used to identify self-perceived body size, desired body size and desired body size in the opposite gender. Results: Approximately half of the participants had a correct self-perceived body size; among them 70% did not have a desire to have a smaller body size. Among women who preferred a body size corresponding to overweight in men, 77% also had a desired body size corresponding to overweight; compared to 43% for men. The youngest participants (18–25 years) were the least likely to overestimate their body size in comparison to the older participants (26–45 years and 46–80 years). Conclusion: We found an overall preference for an overweight body size, and a significant difference in body size perception associated with age.