Weight-related behaviors among adolescent girls and boys: results from a national survey

D Neumark-Sztainer, P J Hannan
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 2000, 154 (6): 569-77

OBJECTIVE: The study objectives were to assess (1) the prevalence of dieting and disordered eating among adolescents; (2) the sociodemographic, anthropometric, psychosocial, and behavioral correlates of dieting and disordered eating; and (3) whether adolescents report having discussed weight-related issues with their health care providers.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional school-based survey.

STUDY POPULATION: A nationally representative sample of 6728 adolescents in grades 5 to 12 who completed the Commonwealth Fund surveys of the health of adolescent girls and boys.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Dieting and disordered eating (binge-purge cycling).

RESULTS: Approximately 24% of the population was overweight. Almost half of the girls (45%) reported that they had at some point been on a diet, compared with 20% of the boys. Disordered eating was reported by 13% of the girls and 7% of the boys. Strong correlates of these behaviors included overweight status, low self-esteem, depression, suicidal ideation, and substance use. Almost half of the adolescents (38%-53%) reported that a health care provider had at some point discussed nutrition or weight with them. Discussions on eating disorders were reported by lower percentages of girls (24%) and boys (15%).

CONCLUSIONS: The high prevalence of weight-related concerns suggests that all youth should be reached with appropriate interventions. Special attention needs to be directed toward youth at greatest risk for disordered eating behaviors, such as overweight youth, youth engaging in substance use behaviors, and youth with psychological concerns such as low self-esteem and depressive symptoms.

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