Attitudes and health behaviours of young adolescent omnivores and vegetarians: a school-based study

L S Greene-Finestone, M K Campbell, S E Evers, I A Gutmanis
Appetite 2008, 51 (1): 104-10
This study aimed to identify attitudes, health behaviours, social adjustment and self-reported health of vegetarian and omnivore teenagers and determine characteristics independently related to vegetarian status. Participants were 630 Grade 9 students, ages 13-15 years, in seven schools in Ontario, Canada. Vegetarian status was determined using a 19-item food inventory. The vegetarian group included lacto, ovo and/or lacto-ovo and semi-vegetarians. Omnivores consumed red meat at least monthly. Social adjustment factors included school misbehaviour, low academic performance, authority-defying risks and unsafe/illegal risks. Logistic regression estimated the relationship of characteristics to vegetarian status. The sample comprised 25 vegetarians (4%) and 605 omnivores. Analyses focussed mainly on females; 22 vegetarians and 315 omnivores. Dieting behaviours (current, frequent and past year), alcohol use, poorer social adjustment and poorer self-rated health were positively related to vegetarian eating (p<.05). Among females (using logistic regression), past year dieting (OR 9.88; 95% CI 2.19-44.47) and alcohol use (OR 2.91; 95% CI 1.02-8.32) predominated in the presence of attitudes that personal health and animal rights are very important. The model predicted 79.9% of cases. Teenage vegetarians were distinctive in health behaviours. The independent, positive association of alcohol use with vegetarian eating is a unique and concerning finding. Dieting behaviours were strongly, independently and positively linked to female vegetarian eating. Further studies with a greater range of behaviours would be useful to more fully characterize teenage vegetarians and explore subgroups.

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