Send to

Choose Destination
Soc Sci Med. 2009 May;68(9):1685-91. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.02.015. Epub 2009 Mar 18.

Overweight status, self-perception, and suicidal behaviors among adolescents.

Author information

Bentley University, Waltham, MA, United States.


Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents in the USA. The suicide rate for individuals 15-19 years of age, while having declined since the early 1990s, has recently shown signs of an increasing trend. The prevalence of being overweight has also steadily risen among adolescents, and has tripled since 1960. This study utilizes data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System (1999-2007) to explore the relationship between the perception of being overweight and suicidal behaviors. Studies have shown a high degree of correlation between overweight status, depressive disorders, and suicidal behaviors. This study analyzes these indicators in conjunction with individuals' perception of their weight. The empirical methodology is based on simultaneous-equations models and stratified samples to gauge whether the link between overweight indicators and suicide is causal or whether it is driven by other factors. Results indicate that body dissatisfaction, as measured by the perception of being overweight, has a strong impact on all suicidal behaviors for girls. It raises the risk of suicide ideation by 6.1 percentage points, suicide attempt by 3.6 percentage points, and a serious suicide attempt by 0.5 percentage points. Results are generally insignificant for males. Conditional on overweight perception, actual weight does not generally have an independent effect on suicidal behaviors. Policies aimed at reducing the prevalence of overweight among adolescents may further reduce suicidal behaviors by limiting overweight perception, especially among girls. However, the independent role of perception also highlights the importance of educating youths and fostering healthy attitudes regarding body image.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center