Unfortunately, more teens are overweight or obese than ever before. This realization worries experts as they fear that a negative body image may compromise the mental health of teens.
This anxiety has lead to a new study that may provide hope as researchers discover overweight teens who are satisfied with their bodies are less depressed and less prone to unhealthy behaviors.
These findings could lead to proactive strategies to manage mental health among overweight adolescents.
In the study, researchers discovered overweight adolescents who are happy with the size and shape of their bodies report higher levels of self-esteem and may also be protected against the negative behavioral and psychological factors sometimes associated with being overweight.
Study findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Investigators surveyed a group of 103 overweight adolescents between 2004 and 2006, assessing body satisfaction, weight-control behavior, importance placed on thinness, self-esteem and symptoms of anxiety and depression, among other factors.
“We found that girls with high body satisfaction had a lower likelihood of unhealthy weight-control behaviors like fasting, skipping meals or vomiting,” said Kerri Boutelle, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
Boutelle added that the positive relationship shown in this study between body a girl’s happiness with her body and her behavioral and psychological well-being suggests that improving body satisfaction could be a key component of interventions for overweight youth.
“A focus on enhancing self-image while providing motivation and skills to engage in effect weight-control behaviors may help protect young girls from feelings of depression, anxiety or anger sometimes association with being overweight,” said Boutelle.