Purpose: To determine if weight-teasing predicts subsequent low self-esteem, poor body image, and depressive symptoms; and to examine two mechanisms through which early teasing may influence later emotional health. Methods: A racially and socio-economically diverse sample of 2516 adolescents completed surveys for both Wave 1 (1998-99) and Wave 2 (2003-04) of the Project EAT study. Approximately one third of these were early adolescents who transitioned into middle adolescence, and two thirds were middle adolescents who transitioned into young adulthood. Multiple linear regression analysis was conducted in three stages to test Model A: the total effect of Time 1 teasing on Time 2 emotional health; Model B: Model A, mediated by Time 2 teasing and body mass index (BMI); and Model C: Model B, also mediated by Time 1 emotional health. Results: Approximately one third of males and slightly under half of females reported that they had been teased about their weight at Time 1. Time 1 teasing predicted lower self-esteem, lower body image, and higher depressive symptoms at Time 2 for males and females in the older and younger age groups. This relationship was fully mediated, however, by Time 2 teasing and BMI, and by Time 1 emotional health. Adjusted R2 statistics for the final models ranged from .11 to .36. Conclusions: Weight-teasing in adolescence affects emotional well-being at 5-year follow-up, and appears to function through two mechanisms. Reducing early teasing and its concurrent damages to emotional health may prevent longer-term emotional health consequences.
- Body image