Popularity = Happiness?

Is it any surprise that girls who feel unpopular put on more weight over a two-year period than girls who see themselves as being higher on the popularity ladder? And what is healthier: being heavier and unpopular, or being popular and thinner?


In a study recently publicized through the Associated Press via the San Francisco Chronicle, young women (with an average age of 15) told researchers their height, weight, and where they saw themselves on the social ladder. Two years later, the girls were asked again for their weight. Girls who had previously labeled themselves as unpopular had more “excess” weight than the girls who saw themselves as being higher on the social ladder.

But the questions that I keep coming back to are 1) who is actually happier? and 2) who is actually healthier?

First of all, I would like to be able to say that there are more important indicators of young women’s happiness than their popularity. A girls’ perceived popularity in junior high does affect their self-esteem, which may therefore impact their health decisions. However, some girls are lucky enough to realize that it’s the quality of their friendships, the support of their family, and their life experiences that matter rather than the number of friendships. And in that case, these young women may well be much happier than the more “popular” girls. I would love to see this study accompanied by a survey of how the girls rate their happiness.

And secondly, weight is not the only factor in our health! Every body is made differently and thus every body deals with health, food, and exercise in different ways.

All of that being said, in order for women to be healthy, we have to look at more than just their food intake and exercise. Improving every girl’s self-esteem is integral to improving their health. The study is important in that it brings self-esteem into the weight debate, something that is sorely missing. However, this is just the beginning. We need to look at other factors when considering a person’s health than their food and exercise patterns. What does it matter if we’re overweight, happy, and healthy?

— H. B.

6 thoughts on “Popularity = Happiness?

  1. –>What does it matter if we’re overweight, happy, and healthy?
    Now it’s getting irresponsible here.
    School kids should not at all be overweight. Period.
    Being overweight is about the worst for a child’s health, and for their self-esteem as well, and not just because everybody is so mean.
    I can remember when I was at school, we had maybe one boy and one girl a bit overweight. This “fat kid” was not in any way comparable to the sick children we encounter nowadays as normal in our schools. Exercising kids which get a healthy diet are in the minority by now.
    The answer cannot be to just improve their self-esteem and everything is ok.

  2. Jana, your right. Let’s put all the school kids on a starvation diet. I’m being sarcastic. That would be the only way to see that all the children in school are thin. Do you think starving children leads to health? Do you realize that right now, hospitals are getting 7 year olds reffered to them with a diagnoses of Anorexia? Or is Anorexia your idea of healthy?

  3. Oh one more thing Jana, it is because everyone is so mean that plus size children have little self-esteem. If they lived in a society that didn’t place hate on someone based on body size, they wouldn’t be dealing with that.

    Bullies deserve to be punished. They’re not bullying plus-sized children out of a concern for their health. If the emotional abuse leads to them being thin though, who cares right?

  4. Jacki, it´s sad you think the only alternative to obesity is anorexia.
    Obesity often starts at school-age because of irresponsible parents and lousy school lunch diet. Lack of sports does the rest.
    The increase in anorexia cases is caused by the general obesity epidemic -people are desperate to lose weight and do so in a destructive way. It is child abuse to allow your kid to become obese. To give a polemic example: Marlene Corrigan, who fattened her own daughter to death.

    Bullies: children and teens are very cruel and pick on everyone showing a weakness. You are right: if “plus-sized” children lived in a world without that, they wouldn´t suffer from them, as it is with all things on this world.

  5. yikes! Things get harsh quick around here.

    I really liked the post. I read an article about the study too and thought some of the same questions you raised.

    Geez do we ever live in a tough society for kids.

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