Weight control behaviors among overweight, normal weight and underweight adolescents in Palestine: findings from the national study of Palestinian schoolchildren (HBSC-WBG2004)

Haleama Al Sabbah, Carine Vereecken, Ziad Abdeen, Colette Kelly, Kristiina Ojala, Agnes NĂ©meth, Namanjeet Ahluwalia, Lea Maes
International Journal of Eating Disorders 2010, 43 (4): 326-36

OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study is to examine the relationship between weight-control behaviors and self-reported sociodemographic characteristics, weight status, and perception of body weight in a large, representative sample of adolescents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories of Palestine.

METHOD: Self-report measures of sociodemographic characteristics, body weight perception, height and weight, and weight-control behaviors were completed by 8,885 male and female students aged 12-18 years from 405 randomly selected schools as part of the 2003/2004 Palestinian Health Behavior in School-aged Children Study (HBSC).

RESULTS: In both genders, dieting to lose weight was common among adolescents and significantly higher among overweight than among underweight or normal weight adolescents. Extreme weight-control behaviors (vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives) and smoking were more common among boys than girls, and extreme weight-control behaviors were particularly common among underweight boys. Older adolescents were less likely than younger adolescents to engage in weight-control behaviors. Perception of body weight as too fat was an influential factor in following an unhealthy diet to lose weight.

DISCUSSION: Practices to control weight, particularly extreme and unhealthy weight-control behaviors, are common among adolescents in the Palestinian territories. These findings suggest the need to design appropriate prevention and early intervention programs for adolescents in Palestine.

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