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Psychol Men Masc. 2014;15(4):445-451.

Body Image Distortions, Weight, and Depression in Adolescent Boys: Longitudinal Trajectories into Adulthood.

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Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.


Depressive symptoms are common among the U.S. population, yet research into prospective risk factors of depression among men is limited. Distorted body image is also prevalent among adolescent boys, and may be linked with elevated depression; however, longitudinal associations have rarely been measured. Thus, the aim of the current study was to assess the prospective relationship between forms of body image distortion and depressive symptoms among adolescent boys, into adulthood. Data were extracted from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Participants were 2,139 U.S. adolescent boys (M age = 16) who were followed prospectively over 13-years (1996 to 2009), into adulthood. Longitudinal mixed-level modeling was employed to assess the temporal prediction of body image distortion on symptoms of depression. Results revealed that boys who were average weight and viewed themselves as either very underweight (very underweight distorted; Cohen's d = .47) or overweight (overweight distorted; Cohen's d = .29) reported significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms compared to boys who accurately viewed their weight as average; this effect remained constant over the 13-year study period. These findings indicated that distortions in body image, particularly extreme distortions, are risk factors for elevated depressive symptoms among adolescent boys, and persist into early adulthood.


Body Mass Index; Body image distortion; Depression; Males; Weight

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