Associations of Weight-Based Teasing and Emotional Well-being Among Adolescents | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
[Skip to Navigation]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address 34.204.186.91. Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
Article
August 2003

Associations of Weight-Based Teasing and Emotional Well-being Among Adolescents

Author Affiliations

From the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, School of Medicine (Dr Eisenberg) and Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health (Drs Eisenberg, Neumark-Sztainer, and Story), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(8):733-738. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.8.733
Abstract

Background  Verbal harassment, such as bullying and hate speech, has received considerable attention recently, but less is known about weight-based teasing and its potential harmful effects on young people's psychosocial well-being.

Objective  To determine the associations of weight-based teasing and body satisfaction, self-esteem, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts using a large sample of adolescents.

Design  Secondary analysis of survey and anthropometric data.

Setting  Ethnically and socioeconomically diverse communities in the urban and suburban school districts of the Minneapolis/St Paul metropolitan area.

Participants  A school-based sample of 4746 adolescents in grades 7 to 12 at 31 public middle schools and high schools.

Main Outcome Measures  Weight-based teasing from peers or family members, body satisfaction, self-esteem, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Results  Of the eligible students, 81.5% participated; 30.0% of adolescent girls and 24.7% of adolescent boys were teased by peers, and 28.7% of adolescent girls and 16.1% of adolescent boys were teased by family members. Approximately 14.6% of adolescent girls and 9.6% of adolescent boys reported teasing from both of these sources. Teasing about body weight was consistently associated with low body satisfaction, low self-esteem, high depressive symptoms, and thinking about and attempting suicide, even after controlling for actual body weight. These associations held for adolescent boys and girls, across racial, ethnic, and weight groups. Furthermore, teasing from 2 sources was associated with a higher prevalence of emotional health problems than either teasing from a single source or no teasing.

Conclusions  Physicians and other health care providers should recognize the importance of weight-based teasing for young patients. Policy, programs, and education should focus on increasing awareness of what constitutes weight-based teasing, its potentially harmful effects on adolescents' emotional well-being, and reduction of this behavior.

×