Perceptions of weight important risk factor for suicidal behavior in adolescents

CHICAGO How adolescents perceive their body weight may be more important than their actual weight in terms of increased likelihood of suicidal thoughts and attempts, according to a study in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The percentage of U.S. adolescents who are overweight has tripled during the past 20 years, from five percent in 1980 to 15 percent by 2000, according to background information in the article. Negative mental health outcomes are the most widespread health consequence associated with overweight and obesity in adolescents. Adolescents, particularly girls, who are overweight are at increased risk for considering suicide and suicide attempts. However, it is unclear whether one's actual weight or one's perception of body weight is a more important risk factor for suicidal behavior.

Danice K. Eaton, Ph.D., from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues used data from the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to determine how body mass index (BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) and perceived weight were associated with thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts in adolescents. Study participants (n = 13,601) were in grades nine through 12 from a national sample of schools. Students were asked whether they would describe their weight as very underweight, slightly underweight, about the right weight, slightly overweight, or very overweight. They were also asked whether they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months, and how many times they had actually attempted suicide in the past 12 months.

The researchers found that the prevalence of self-reported suicidal ideation (i.e., seriously considering suicide in the past 12 months) was 14.2 percent for males and 23.6 percent for females, whereas the self-reported prevalence of attempting suicide in the past 12 mont

Contact: Anita Blankenship
JAMA and Archives Journals

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