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Changes in the prevalence and correlates of weight-control behaviors and weight perception in adolescents in the UK, 1986 to 2015

Solmi, F; Sharpe, H; Gage, S; Maddock, J; Lewis, G; Patalay, P; (2020) Changes in the prevalence and correlates of weight-control behaviors and weight perception in adolescents in the UK, 1986 to 2015. JAMA Pediatrics , 175 (3) pp. 267-275. 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.4746. Green open access

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Abstract

Importance: In the context of the growing prevalence of childhood obesity, behaviors aimed at weight loss and their psychological burden might be increasing. Objective: To investigate whether the prevalence of weight-control behaviors and weight perception, including their association with depressive symptoms, has changed in the 3 decades between 1986 and 2015. Design, Setting, and Participants: This study used data from repeated cross-sections from successive longitudinal birth cohort studies. These included general population samples of UK adolescents aged 14 to 16 years from 3 ongoing birth cohorts: the British Cohort Study 1970 (children born between April 5 and 11, 1970; data collected in 1986), the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (mothers with expected delivery between April 1, 1991, and December 21, 1992; data collected in 2005), and the Millennium Cohort Study (children born between September 1, 2000, and January 11, 2002; data collected in 2015). A total of 22 503 adolescents with data available on at least 1 weight-control or weight-perception variable in midadolescence were included in the study. Data were analyzed from August 1, 2019, to January 15, 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures: Self-reported lifetime dieting and exercise for weight loss, current intentions about weight (doing nothing, lose weight, stay the same, gain weight), and weight perception (underweight, about the right weight, overweight) adjusted for body mass index. The secondary outcome was depressive symptoms. Exposures: The main exposure was time (ie, cohort); secondary exposures were weight-change behaviors and weight perception. Results: The study cohort included 22 503 adolescents (mean [SD] age, 14.8 [0.3] years; 12 061 girls [53.6%]; and 19 942 White individuals [89.9%]). A total of 5878 participants were from the British Cohort Study, 5832 were from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, and 10 793 were from the Millennium Cohort Study. In 2015, 4809 participants (44.4%) had dieted and 6514 (60.5%) had exercised to lose weight compared with 1952 (37.7%) and 344 (6.8%) in 1986. Furthermore, 4539 (42.2%) were trying to lose weight in 2015 compared with 1767 (28.6%) in 2005. Although girls were more likely to report these behaviors in all years, their prevalence increased more in boys over time (lifetime dieting in boys: odds ratio [OR], 1.79; 95% CI, 1.24-2.59; in girls: OR, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.91-1.66; currently trying to lose weight in boys: OR, 2.75; 95% CI, 2.38-3.19; in girls: OR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.50-1.92). Adolescents also became more likely to overestimate their weight (boys describing themselves as overweight adjusting for body mass index, 2005 vs 1985 OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.17-2.19; 2015 vs 1985 OR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.04-1.80; girls describing themselves as underweight, after adjusting for body mass index, 2015 vs 1986 OR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.28-0.91). Girls who described themselves as overweight experienced increasingly greater depressive symptoms over time compared to girls who described their weight as about right (mean difference 1986, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.22-0.41; mean difference 2005, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.24-0.42; mean difference 2015, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.49-0.62). Conclusions and Relevance: These findings suggest that the growing focus on obesity prevention might have had unintended consequences related to weight-control behaviors and poor mental health. Public health campaigns addressing obesity should include prevention of disordered eating behaviors and be sensitive to negative impact on mental health.

Type: Article
Title: Changes in the prevalence and correlates of weight-control behaviors and weight perception in adolescents in the UK, 1986 to 2015
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.4746
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.4746
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2020 Solmi F et al. JAMA Pediatrics.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > Population Science and Experimental Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > Population Science and Experimental Medicine > MRC Unit for Lifelong Hlth and Ageing
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10115118
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