Weight-concerned teens may be depressive, according to a new longitudinal study observing over 1,800 teenagers and young adults.
The obesity epidemic America is facing is a serious concern. Concerted efforts to decrease the alarming trend have been upscaled recently. However, more emphasis on health and less emphasis on body image should be the norm underpinning these efforts.
While this is typically the direction that debates concerning fighting obesity take, there are a number of instances that promote body images simply unattainable for everyone. Teenagers and young adults are prone to being influenced by these images to a large extent. Without guidance, this may add to the problems posed by being overweight or obese.
Ph.D. Carly R. Pacanowski and her team with the University of Minnesota conducted a longitudinal study involving over 1,800 teenagers and young adults monitored over a period of ten years. 57 percent of the participants are female. All participants had reported self-weighing during the Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults Project.
From here, Pacanowski and her team tracked the participants to understand the relationship between self-weighing and self-perception, body image, weight concerns and losing weight results. The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
According to CDC statistics, over one third of U.S. adults are obese, amounting to 78.6 million U.S. adult citizens. Obesity with children and teenagers counts 12.7 million. Overall, overweight and obesity represent a serious public health issue.
However, self-weighing may do nothing to counter the issue. To the contrary, it could weight-concerned teens may be depressive. Particularly when their weight-control behavior results in self-weighing too often (from one to several times per day, daily).
The findings of the study suggest that self-weighing may in fact be harmful. Instead of emphasising health, health complications and a healthy lifestyle, it shifts the emphasis to body image and self perception. According to Pacanowski, weight concern and related behaviors, as well as body dissatisfaction may predict eating disorders, as well as depressive symptoms, particularly with teens and young adults.
During the study, the participants’ self-perception, body satisfaction, self-weighing, weight concern and ideal weight and potential depressive symptoms were analyzed using the Likert scale. 80 percent of the female participants were found to present dangerous behaviors related to weight control. Among them, taking diuretics and laxatives to reduce body weight or vomiting were most common.
During the period of the study, female participants became more weight-concerned as they increased the rate of self-weighing. At the same time, self-perception and self-esteem went down, while depressive symptoms became more prevalent.
Male participants didn’t present the same intensity with weight-concern and weight-control behaviors. They too reported self-weighing without engaging in dangerous behavior.
The study extends an invitation for clinicians and adults around teenagers and young adults to start an open conversation about weight, weighing and dangerous behaviors.
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