Exploration of body perception and body dissatisfaction in young adults with intellectual disability

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People with intellectual disability (ID) are more likely to be overweight or obese. Research has shown that body dissatisfaction is a key factor in influencing unhealthy eating behaviour. More evidence is needed relating to how people with ID perceive their bodies in order to provide effectively targeted weight management programmes.

This study aimed to investigate whether people with ID have concepts for underweight, overweight and healthyweight, and whether they can apply these concepts to themselves. It also aimed to explore body perception bias through comparison of perceived self to independent figure ratings, and body dissatisfaction through perceived-ideal body discrepancy measurement and a series of open-ended questions.

Mixed methodology was used to explore body perception and body dissatisfaction in 40 young adults with ID compared to 48 individuals without ID. The Stunkard Figure Rating Scale assessed how participants would like to look, and their concepts of weight categories.

Young adults with ID tend to hold positive beliefs about their bodies. Females with ID were likely to underestimate their body size. Individuals with ID understood what is meant by ‘overweight’, ‘healthy-weight’ and ‘underweight’ although these concepts were different to those without ID. Individuals with ID were unable to accurately apply these body size categories to themselves.

These findings suggest that individuals with ID will first need support to understand how concepts of body size apply to themselves in order to facilitate weight management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-97
Number of pages12
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online date13 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017


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