Unhealthy weight control behaviors and substance use among adolescent girls: The harms of weight stigma

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4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rationale: Unhealthy weight control behaviors (UWCBs) often predict future substance use, resulting in a comorbidity that predicts later health consequences. Objective: The current study aimed to examine whether weight stigma and its associated harms magnify or attenuate the effect of UWCBs at baseline on substance use at 10-year follow-up among girls and to elucidate factors related to the perceived harms of weight stigma. Methods: Data from 1147 adolescent girls from Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults) were analyzed at baseline and 10-year follow-up. Participants were split into three groups at baseline: no weight stigma; weight stigma only (being teased by peers or parents); and weight stigma with perceived harms (e.g., being bothered by teasing). Moderation and stratified regression analyses examined the role of weight stigma and its perceived harms on the relationship between UWCBs and substance use. ANOVA models aimed to elucidate factors related to the perceived harms of weight stigma. Results: Moderation analyses revealed marginally significant effects of group membership on the effect of UWCB on substance use (p = .08). Stratified regression results indicated that UWCBs at baseline predicted substance use at 10-year follow-up among girls in the weight stigma with perceived harms group (p = .005), but not in the no weight stigma or weight stigma only groups. Girls in the weight stigma with perceived harms group reported higher weight concern, depressive symptoms and BMIs than girls who report no weight stigma or weight stigma only. Conclusions: Health initiatives should seek to reduce weight stigma and its associated harms to prevent substance use in girls and women. Clinicians working with adolescent girls with UWCB should inquire about experiences with weight stigma with its harms to assess substance use risk. Due to the marginally significant moderation, results should be interpreted with caution. Conclusions: Health initiatives should seek to reduce weight stigma and its associated harms to prevent substance use in girls and women. Clinicians working with adolescent girls with UWCB should inquire about experiences with weight stigma with its harms to assess substance use risk. Due to the marginally significant moderation, results should be interpreted with caution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-70
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume233
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health under Award Number T32MH082761 (PI: Scott Crow) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under Award Number R35HL139853 (PI: Dianne Neumark-Sztainer). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute or the National Institutes of Health . Portions of the findings included in this article were presented at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in New York, NY in March 2019.

Keywords

  • Adolescent health
  • Substance use
  • Unhealthy weight control
  • Weight stigma

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