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Prev Med. 1999 Jan;28(1):40-50.

Sociodemographic and personal characteristics of adolescents engaged in weight loss and weight/muscle gain behaviors: who is doing what?

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55454, USA.



Prevalence rates of behaviors aimed at weight loss and weight/muscle gain among adolescents were examined across sociodemographic and personal anthropometric variables to provide insight into these behaviors and identify high-risk subgroups.


A statewide representative sample of 7th, 9th, and 11th grade public school students from Connecticut completed a classroom-administered survey on adolescent health in 1995-1996. The study sample in the present analysis included 9,118 adolescents.


The most frequently reported weight control behavior was exercise followed by dieting. Disordered eating (vomiting, diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics) over the previous week was reported by 7.4% of the girls and 3.1% of the boys. Steroids were used by 0.5% of the girls and 2.3% of the boys. Girls in the highest BMI category were at greatest risk for disordered eating behaviors while boys in the lowest BMI category were at greatest risk for steroid use. African American and Hispanic girls were less likely than Caucasians to diet and exercise, but were more likely to report behaviors aimed at weight gain. Relatively high rates of disordered eating behaviors were reported by African American and Hispanic boys. Older girls reported slightly more dieting and disordered eating and less exercise than younger girls. Youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds were at greater risk for disordered eating than youth from high socioeconomic backgrounds.


The findings suggest a need to widen our scope of thinking with regard to who is concerned with their body shape/size and at risk for engaging in potentially dangerous behaviors aimed at either weight loss or muscle gain.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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