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Two-thirds of teenage girls currently are trying to lose weight or have attempted to lose weight recently, according to a study of America's youth. By the time they reach age 18, about half of U.S. girls feel they are overweight.
But despite their negative self-image, girls are not exercising as frequently as boys, indicate findings of the Harris Interactive YouthPulse study.
The latest study was conducted online in January with 3,878 people from the ages of 8 to 24.
"It is clear that teen girls are more critical of their bodies than teen boys," said John Geraci, Harris Interactive's vice president for youth research. "The gap between the proportion of girls and boys who see themselves as being overweight is significant, but what is shocking is how young this perception starts. We found that about a third of 8- to 12-year-old girls feel they are overweight."
In fact, more than one-third of 10- to 12-year-olds are trying to lose weight or have in the past; that number jumps to 65 percent for girls between the ages of 13 and 15, the study found.
Geraci added, "By most measures, physical activity among young people is decreasing. At the same time, we are seeing decreases in body image perceptions and increases in dieting behaviors among girls."
The study also found that despite female teens and young adults being more apt than males in the same age range to say they are overweight, they are exercising less. Girls age 13-24 were more likely than boys to be trying to lose weight (50 percent versus 24 percent) and to perceive themselves as overweight (47 percent versus 34 percent), but less likely to be physically active. Three in 10 females age 13-24 reported that they had not participated in activities that made them sweat or breathe hard in the past week, while less than one-quarter of their male counterparts said the same.