Body dissatisfaction in youth not tied to socioeconomic status

High body dissatisfaction and disordered eating are prevalent in teens and young adults regardless of socioeconomic status (SES), according to a study published in the August issue of Eating Behaviors.

Nicole Larson, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues used data from the Eating and Activity Over Time study, which surveyed adolescents from 20 Minneapolis-St. Paul area schools in 2009 to 2010 (mean age, 14.5 years) and again as emerging adults in 2018 (mean age, 22.0 years).

The researchers found that among girls, high body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control behaviors (e.g., skipping meals) were more prevalent and regular use of lifestyle weight management behaviors (e.g., exercise) was less prevalent in the low-SES group versus the middle- and upper-SES groups. Among boys in the low-SES group, thinness-oriented dieting, unhealthy weight control behaviors, and extreme weight control behaviors (e.g., taking diet pills) were more prevalent than they were among boys in the middle- and upper-SES groups. When adjusting for ethnicity, race, and body mass index, few differences were observed across SES groups.

“There is a need to increase the reach and relevance of efforts to prevent body dissatisfaction and disordered eating to ensure efforts benefit young people across SES groups,” Larson said in a statement. “In particular, it is important that intervention curricula designed to promote healthy eating and activity behaviors include messages regarding the health consequences of disordered eating.”