Maintaining a positive body image during adolescence has always been a challenge for many female teenagers. Perhaps as an unintended consequence of media attention to obesity, unhealthy behaviors have dramatically escalated, report University of Minnesota researchers.

A five-year study of 2,500 female teenagers found that high school-aged females’ use of diet pills nearly doubled from 7.5 to 14.2 percent. By the ages of 19 and 20, 20 percent of females surveyed used diet pills, according to the new study.

Teen Use of Diet Pills Doubles“These numbers are startling, and they tell us we need to do a better job of helping our daughters feel better about themselves and avoid unhealthy weight control behaviors,” U of M professor and study researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer said.

Other results from the study include:

  • 62.7 percent of teenage females use “unhealthy weight control behaviors”
  • 21.9 percent of teenage females use “very unhealthy weight control behaviors”

Very unhealthy weight control behaviors include the use of diet pills, laxatives, vomiting or skipping meals. Of the 2,500 teenage males studied, their rates were half of the females’.

“We have found that teenage females who diet and use unhealthy weight control behaviors are at three times the risk of being overweight,” said Neumark-Sztainer.

“Teens who feel good about their bodies eat better and have less risk of being overweight. Parents can play a key role in helping their children to build a positive body image and engage in healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.”

The study also shows that by teenage years, females’ physical activity drops dramatically to only 3.93 hours per week, whereas males in the same age group spend 6.11 hours.

Source: University of Minnesota