To compare weight concerns and self-reported body mass index (BMI) of low birth weight (LBW) adolescent boys to those of a normative sample and examine relationships among BMI, weight concerns, self-esteem, and depression in the LBW cohort.
LBW boys (n = 260; mean age, 16.0) belong to the Neonatal Brain Hemorrhage Study birth cohort. Normative boys (n = 305; mean age, 16.5) belong to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Both samples were assessed in 2001–2004 with self-report questionnaires. BMI was calculated from self-reported height and weight. Weight perception and weight dissatisfaction were assessed with the Eating Symptoms Inventory. In LBW boys, self-esteem was measured with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and depression with the Beck Depression Inventory.
Based on self-reported height and weight, LBW boys were more likely to be healthy weight or underweight and less likely to be overweight than normative boys. Despite having healthier self-reported BMIs, LBW boys reported more weight concerns than the normative sample. A total of 46.9% of LBW boys perceived their weight as abnormal, and 76.5% desired weight change. Weight concerns in LBW boys mostly reflected a perception of being underweight (31.2% of the cohort) and a desire to gain weight (47.5% of the cohort), although only 6.5% were clinically underweight. Weight concerns, but not BMI, were related to clinical depression and lower self-esteem.
LBW adolescent boys are at high risk of experiencing weight concerns. Weight concerns rather than BMI are associated with emotional problems in LBW boys.