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For today's youth, being overweight can mean less friendships, study claims

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As if being overweight didn't carry with it enough of a stigma for young people, a new study now suggests those with weight issues have fewer friends than their healthier weight counterparts.

The study suggests that heavier teens are more likely to be rejected as friends by slimmer people. The researchers behind the study claim they have found that even though overweight young people may consistently choose friends who are normal weight, they are often not selected as friends in return.

The study, conducted by Arizona State University, took to the social media sphere for their research to study how younger people choose their friends.

"We found consistent evidence that overweight youth choose non-overweight friends more often than they were selected in return," concluded Associate Professor David Schaefer.

While the weight of their friends clearly carried significance with normal weight youth, the report suggests that overweight young people are mostly indifferent to the weight of their friends.  ASU researchers added that as a consequence of this, overweight people may turn to overweight peers for friendship.

This "social marginalizing" as the study refers to it, is also common for young people with regard to how they view those that are overweight.

"This is especially troubling since friendships are important sources of support and companionship," Associate Professor Sandra Simpkins said. "Not having or losing friends is associated with higher depression and lower self-worth for young people, which could exacerbate the health problems associated with being overweight."

Recent data from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN) claims that among children and adolescents ages 6 to 19, almost 1 in 3 (33.2 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese, and 18.2 percent are considered to be obese. WIN also claims that among children and adolescents, the prevalence of obesity also increased in the 1980s and 1990s but is now mostly stable at about 17 percent. WIN's physical activity guidelines also recommend that children and youth get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains that being overweight or obese is the result of "caloric imbalance"- too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed - and these conditions are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

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