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Adolescent body image perceptions and socioeconomic status: a systematic review

OBJECTIVE: To discuss the relationships between body image perceptions and socioeconomic factors such as income, level of education, and ethnicity among adolescents. DATA SOURCE: Articles were selected from PubMed and SciELO databases, involving adolescents, without limits of publication dates, in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French, with the following keywords: "body image perception", "socioeconomic status", and "adolescents". DATA SYNTHESIS: The influence of the socioeconomic context upon body image perceptions and satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the body is a relevant subject in understanding adolescent's health. This study identified that relationships between body image and socioeconomic levels are complex and the results of published studies are not conclusive. The main findings are: North-American lower class youths present greater chances for obesity, but this is not true in Brazil; girls and boys have different behaviors concerning body image perceptions, despite ethnicity or socioeconomic status; Caucasian girls show more dissatisfaction with their body images and greater search for diets than African American girls, who seem to suffer less influence of the current beauty patterns; youth of lower socioeconomic status presents a tendency to desire larger bodies. CONCLUSIONS: Considering foreign samples, there was a tendency for greater levels of dissatisfaction with the body among adolescents of higher socioeconomic classes. In Brazilian samples, studies about this subject are scarce and further research is needed, especially because Brazilian population is experiencing economical and nutritional modifications.

body image; socioeconomic factors; perception; adolescent

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