Body image and weight control in South Africans 15 years or older: SANHANES-1

SOURCE: BMC Public Health
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
TITLE AUTHOR(S): Z.J.Mchiza, W.Parker, M.Makoae, R.Sewpaul, T.Kupamupindi, D.Labadarios
DEPARTMENT: Center for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CESTII)
Intranet: HSRC Library: shelf number 8820

Download this report

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at


South African studies have suggested that differences in obesity prevalence between groups may be partly related to differences in body image and body size dissatisfaction. However, there has never been a national study that measured body image and its relationship to weight control in the country. Hence, the main aim of the study was to examine body image in relation to body mass index and weight control in South Africa. A cross-sectional survey and a secondary analyses of data were undertaken for 6 411 South Africans (15+ years) participating in the first South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Body image was investigated in relation to weight status and attempts to lose or gain weight. Data were analysed using STATA version 11.0. Descriptive statistics are presented as counts (numbers), percentages, means, standard error of means, and 95 % confidence intervals. Any differences in values were considered to be significantly different if the confidence intervals did not overlap. Overall, 84.5 % participants had a largely distorted body image and 45.3 % were highly dissatisfied about their body size. Overweight and obese participants under estimated their body size and desired to be thinner. On the other hand, normal- and under-weight participants over estimated their body size and desired to be fatter. Only 12.1 and 10.1 % of participants attempted to lose or gain weight, respectively, mainly by adjusting dietary intake and physical activity. Body mass index appears to influence body image and weight adjustment in South Africa. South Africans at the extreme ends of the body mass index range have a largely distorted body image and are highly dissatisfied by it. This suggests a need for health education and beneficial weight control strategies to halt the obesity epidemic in the country.