A university research study has explored the association between race, body weight and sexual behavior among adolescent girls.
Scientists discovered a girl’s ethnicity and her actual weight or perception of her weight may play a role in her participation in risky sexual behaviors.
The University of Pittsburgh study will be published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The study, conducted by Aletha Akers, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues, further links girls at weight extremes with an increased risk for engaging in sexual risk-taking behaviors.
“This study will contribute to sexual health education prevention efforts, which can be tailored to address how cultural norms regarding body size may influence adolescent sexual decision making. Knowing how a girl perceives her weight may be just as important as knowing her actual weight,” noted Dr. Akers.
Of the nearly 7,200 high school girls asked about their sexual activity and risky sexual behavior as part of the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey, half reported ever having sex.
Those girls who were both sexually active and overweight, or who thought they were overweight, were less likely to use condoms than normal-weight sexually active girls. Underweight girls also were less likely to use condoms.
The findings also suggested variability in the girls’ sexual activity and sexual risk-taking behavior based on their ethnicity and actual or perceived weight.