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Self-weighing linked to teenage hazardous behaviour

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Self-weighing, while a useful tool to help adults control their weight, may have negative psychological outcomes for adolescents and young adults this behaviour, researchers have warned.

Their study found increases in self-weighing to be significantly related to increases in weight concern and depression and decreases in body satisfaction and self-esteem among females.

“Clinicians should ask adolescent patients about self-weighing at visits to determine any benefits or negative outcomes”

Carly Pacanowski

Researchers from Minnesota University tracked the self-weighing behaviours of young adults as part of a long-term study called Project EAT – Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults. The longitudinal cohort study tracked 1,902 young adults – 43% male and 57% female – over 10 years.

Self-weighing, ideal weight, weight concern, body satisfaction, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms were ranked by participants.

Adolescents also reported their engagement in unhealthy and extreme unhealthy behaviours. Researchers calculated body mass index for the participants as well.

Results indicated that females who reported increases in self-weighing over the 10-year period were expected to have increases in weight concern and depressive symptoms and decreases in body satisfaction and self-esteem.

As such, self-weighing may not be an innocuous behaviour and care should be taken when young adults report self-weighing, according to the study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

“Body dissatisfaction and weight concerns are predictors of eating disorders”

Carly Pacanowski

Lead study author Dr Carly Pacanowski said: “Females who strongly agreed they self-weighed reported engaging in extremely dangerous weight-control behaviours at a rate of 80%.

“Adolescent obesity is a public health concern, but body dissatisfaction and weight concerns are predictors of eating disorders,” she said. “This makes it critical that obesity-prevention programmes avoid exacerbating these predictors.”

She added: “Clinicians should ask adolescent patients about self-weighing at visits to determine any benefits or negative outcomes. Noting changes in this behaviour over time can be helpful for investigating other, more concerning changes in well-being among young adults.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Body image is the Elephant in the Room of adolescent health!
    Both school nurses and practice nurses have a chance to help, and possibly others like CAMHS or Contraceptive Clinic nurses, but in policy terms it is seen as a 'wicked problem' that policy-makers won't touch.

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