Comparing the food choices and body image of 15-year-olds around the world

(Using CANSIM data dating back to 2002 or 1998)


Intermediate students research habits such as food choices and body image among young people from various countries.

Contributors: Gail Nevraumont, Family Studies, Sir Robert Borden High School, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board; Joel Yan, Nathalie Gendron, Learning resources Team, Statistics Canada.
Adapted from a lesson by Paul ApSimon, Statistics Canada Support Teacher.


Suggested grade levels and subject areas

Food and Nutrition, Family Studies, Health, Physical Education


minimum of 2 periods
up to 4 periods if the survey is done with the class and by the students with another group


Students will:


You can choose to do this exercise using updated 2002 data or the original 1998 data.

Classroom instruction

  1. Begin the exercise by asking the students this question:

    How do you think Canadian 15-year-olds compare with those living in other countries with respect to: Ask them to give a reason for each of their opinions.
  2. Have students select four countries to research and compare with Canada. Suggest that the whole class choose two countries for everyone to research, perhaps an affluent country (such as the United States) and a less affluent country (such as Poland, or Estonia). Then have each student choose two other countries of interest (perhaps including country of heritage) from the following list: Have students write the name of their four selected countries in the first column of Student worksheet A or B.
  3. Explain to students that a healthy lifestyle includes wholesome food, a positive body image, physical activity, wise use of medication and alcohol, and avoidance of tobacco and other drugs. Then ask students to estimate how they think for the 15-year-olds in Canada and in the other four countries would rank, from 1 (highest) to 5 (lowest), with respect to the food choices and body image behaviours in the column headings. Have students record these estimated rankings in the 'Est. rank' columns. Explain to students that they will be comparing these estimates with actual observations.
  4. Give students an overview of Statistics Canada and the World Health Organization. Talk about why we conduct statistical surveys, and how surveys work.
  5. Guide your students through the E-STAT steps described in Student instructions A or Student instructions B. They will retrieve tables of actual data for the countries and variables selected. This can be done as an in-class assignment in a computer lab, or as homework. Then they will record the data on their worksheets, rank the countries selected, enter the results and their observations.
  6. Have students answer these questions about the results rankings:
  7. Discuss the differences between primary and secondary sources of information. Have students brainstorm the pros and cons of conducting a survey themselves (primary source) versus using existing data from Statistics Canada and elsewhere (secondary sources).
  8. If you have time, have the class do part of the World Health Organization's Survey on the Health Behaviours of School-Aged Children. The questionnaire for this survey is on the Health Canada website. Have the class answer the following questions from the survey for the 1998 data: 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 29, 70, 71 and 72.
  9. Have students analyse the class survey results and compare them to the original results from the World Health Organization's Survey on the Health Behaviours of School-aged Children. Then have students prepare graphs comparing the class data in different ways, such as males versus females, and class results versus Canadian results.
  10. Have students, in small groups or individually, conduct this survey with another group such as: Then have students analyse the data from their survey and prepare a brief report comparing their results with the class survey data. Perhaps the analysis could be posted on a bulletin board.
  11. Have students brainstorm other information that could be collected through a survey about 15-year-olds.


Review student expectations and observations and international trends recorded on Student worksheet A or B to evaluate students for


For a broader activity that looks at other aspects of health and lifestyle choices, you can also direct your students to the lesson "Comparing the health and lifestyles of 13-year-olds around the world". This lesson gives students instructions on how to research other health and lifestyle choices-such as smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, television watching, and time spent playing computer games-made by young people in Canada and several other countries, using the same international data source on E-STAT.