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Prev Med. 1996 Nov-Dec;25(6):748-56.

Disordered eating and unhealthy weight reduction practices among adolescent females.

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Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Training Program, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



Dissatisfaction with body weight and the use of unhealthy weight reduction practices have been reported among adolescent females. There is a need for methodologically rigorous studies using large representative samples of adolescent females to accurately assess the prevalence of these behaviors and attitudes.


Eight hundred sixty-nine Australian school girls ages 14-16 years were administered a self-report questionnaire to determine the prevalence of disordered eating behaviors, unhealthy dieting practices, and distorted body image. Anthropometric (height and weight) data were collected on each of these adolescent females.


The prevalences of disordered eating, unhealthy dieting, and distorted body image were 33, 57, and 12%, respectively. Over one-third (36%) of the total sample had used at least one "extreme" dieting method in the past month, i.e., "crash" dieting, fasting, slimming tablets, diuretics, laxatives, and/or cigarettes to lose weight. Of the total sample, 77% wanted to lose weight and 51% had tried to lose weight in the past month. Motivating factors for disordered eating and unhealthy dieting behaviors were peer pressure, media pressure, and the perception that extreme dieting strategies were harmless.


The prevalence of disordered eating and dieting behaviors among adolescent females shown by this study suggests the need for preventive programs encouraging appropriate eating and dieting behaviors.

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