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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Nearly three-quarters of Japanese female high-school students see themselves as overweight, despite being thinner on average than their peers in the United States, China and South Korea, a survey showed.
The survey by the Japan Youth Research Institute also showed that Japanese high-school students of both sexes rank the lowest in terms of self esteem among the four countries.
The Tokyo-based institute polled more than 7,000 students from Japanese, U.S., Chinese and South Korean high schools on dietary habits, exercise and other factors to gauge their physical and mental health.
It said national character may play a role in the results due to Japan's heavy emphasis on modesty, but noted that worry about the gloomy Japanese economic outlook as well as a feeling of isolation in an era of virtual communication were also factors.
"This situation is having a big influence in the lack of confidence among Japanese high school students," the institute said in a report.
In Japan, 71 percent of high school girls consider themselves to be overweight, the survey showed. That was higher than 57 percent in South Korea, 39 percent in China and 29 percent in the United States.
That result comes despite the fact that the Japanese female students had the lowest average body mass index (BMI) -- a simple measure of weight according to height -- among those surveyed from the four countries, at 20.0. High-school girls in the United States ranked highest with a BMI of 22.6.
But it was Korean high school girls who were the most enthusiastic dieters, with 51 percent saying they had dieted at some point. They were followed by Chinese at 40 percent, with Japan and the United States roughly even at around 27 percent.
In general, Japanese students saw themselves harshly, with only 7.5 agreeing with the statement that they were "a valuable person."
By contrast, 57 percent of U.S. students, 42 percent in China and 20 percent of South Korean students felt that way.
Japanese teens also ranked lowest on questions of whether they evaluated themselves positively, were satisfied with themselves and if they considered themselves highly capable.
Reporting by Chris Gallagher;editing by Elaine Lies