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Research links youths’ internet use and weight perception

26 June 2023

A University of Canterbury (UC) student has identified worrying social media trends, impacting weight perception among young people in our Pacific communities.


UC student Kat Lousich, alongside Dr El-Shadan Tautolo, has used research to understand impact of recreational internet use on weight perception.

Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury Master of Science (MSc) student Kat Lousich, of Kiribati descent, has used research from the longitudinal Pacific Islands Families Study to show the impact of increased recreational internet use on weight perception.

Lousich’s recently published research, co-written with Dr El-Shadan Tautolo, found young people in Pacific communities with over four hours of daily recreational internet use saw their weight as lower than it was. Nearly three in every five Pacific 14-year-olds underestimated their weight category. The findings show that high internet use had more impact on Pacific youths’ perception of their weight than culture or income.


“Overall about 60% of the group perceived their body size to have a lower classification than what was measured and neither cultural orientation nor socio-economic deprivation was significantly related to weight misconceptions, but recreational internet use was,” says Lousich.

Improving body-size awareness together with the reducing higher recreational internet use, is likely to be an important component in any population-based healthy weight intervention for Pacific youth.

 “I hope this information can be used by medical practitioners across Aotearoa to provide insight into what lifestyle changes can support the health and wellbeing of Pacific patients,” she says.

“Interestingly, European and Asian youth have been shown to overestimate their weight, however there is not enough research to show whether social media impacts this but it would be interesting to one day see research conducted in that space.”

Lousich hopes this same information can be taken from the study participants over time to track how their views may change and if there is a continued impact from high internet use.

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