Purpose: Perceiving one's weight as “overweight” is associated with disordered eating in adolescence. Yet, it is unknown whether weight perceptions change during adolescence, or whether these weight perception transitions predict disordered eating. This study aims to: (1) characterize weight perception transitions from early to late adolescence among a population-based sample and (2) examine whether weight perception transitions in adolescence predict concurrent and future disordered eating into young adulthood. Methods: Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults (N = 1,414) survey data were used to examine correlates of weight perception transitions from early (Mage = 14.9 ± 1.6 years) to late adolescence (Mage = 19.4 ± 1.6 years). Adjusted generalized estimating equations were used to determine whether weight perception transitions in adolescence predicted concurrent and future disordered eating in emerging adulthood (Mage = 25.2 ± 1.6 years) and young adulthood (Mage = 31.0 ± 1.6 years). Results: Weight perceptions were stable from early to late adolescence for 77.2% of adolescents, whereas 15.5% transitioned to perceiving their weight as “overweight” and 7.3% stopped perceiving “overweight” in late adolescence. Perceived “overweight”, especially in late adolescence, was associated with higher concurrent and long-term disordered eating up to 10 years later. For example, the predicted prevalence of binge eating in young adulthood among individuals who perceived their weight as “overweight” throughout adolescence was 20.1% compared to 6.6% for those who never perceived their weight as “overweight” in adolescence. Discussion: Adolescent weight perception was relatively stable in this population-based sample. However, weight perception transitions that involved perceiving “overweight”, particularly in late adolescence, were associated with long-term higher risk of disordered eating.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Grant Numbers: R35HL139853 and R01HL127077 , PI: D. Neumark-Sztainer). SLH's time was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant Number: T32MH082761 , PI: C. Peterson). CBB's time was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Grant Number: T32HL150452 , PI: D. Neumark-Sztainer). LH and KALs' time was supported by the National Institutes of Health 's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences , grant numbers TL1R002493 and UL1TR002494 . The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, or the National Institutes of Health. The corresponding author affirms that all of those who have contributed to the present work are listed as authors.
© 2023 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
- Disordered eating
- Eating disorders
- Weight perception
- Young adult
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural