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Risk factors for unhealthy weight control behaviors differ by sex and weight

Study using Add Health data challenges previous assumptions

Previous studies have identified common risk factors for unhealthy weight control behaviors among adolescents including family dysfunction, adverse childhood events, and school connectedness. A new study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, examined whether these risk factors still applied when looking at weight and sex.

Findings found that commonly recognized risk factors were associated with unhealthy weight control behaviors for underweight and normal weight females but not their male counterparts or overweight/obese adolescents. For example, none of the family risk factors were associated with unhealthy behaviors among males. Results also showed that childhood physical abuse is associated with unhealthy behaviors only in underweight or normal weight females and overweight/obese males.

The findings challenge current screening and intervention practices for unhealthy weight control behaviors as they may only be applicable to underweight or normal weight females. Further research needs to examine other risk factors that are specific for overweight/obese females and males across weight groups, respectively.

These results add to the trend of Add Health data which call for a change in public health practices such as how providers screen for disordered eating behaviors and raising awareness of hypertension among young adults.

View the abstract or download the complete article from the Journal of Adolescent Health: Nagata J.M., Garber A.K., Tabler J.L., Murray S.B., Bibbins-Domingo K. (2018). Differential risk factors for unhealthy weight control behaviors by sex and weight status among U.S. adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 63(3), 334-341.

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