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Teens' Poor Body Image Tied To More Drinking, Smoking

Teens’ Poor Body Image Tied to More Drinking, Smoking

New research finds that the way a teen feels about their appearance can significantly impact their health and wellness.

In the study, Dr. Virginia Ramseyer Winter, a body image expert and an assistant professor in the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work, found negative body image is associated with increased tobacco and alcohol use, with implications for both young men and women.

The finding supports prior work that discovered people with negative body image are more likely to develop eating disorders and are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem.

“We know alcohol and tobacco can have detrimental health effects, especially for teenagers,” Ramseyer Winter said.

“I wanted to see if the perception of being overweight and negative body image leads to engaging in unhealthy or risky substance use behaviors. Understanding the relationship means that interventions and policies aimed at improving body image among teenage populations might improve overall health.”

Ramseyer Winter and her co-authors, Andrea Kennedy and Elizabeth O’Neill, used data from a national survey of American teenagers to determine the associations between perceived size and weight, perceived attractiveness, and levels of alcohol and tobacco use.

Their study appears in theĀ Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse. Kennedy is a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and O’Neill is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas.

The researchers discovered that perceived size and attractiveness were significantly related to substance use. Adolescent girls who perceived their body size to be too fat were more likely to use alcohol and tobacco.

Boys who thought they were too skinny were more likely to smoke, and boys who considered themselves fat were more likely to binge drink.

“While poor body image disproportionately affects females, our findings indicate that body image also impacts young males,” Ramseyer Winter said.

“For example, it’s possible that boys who identified their bodies as too thin use tobacco to maintain body size, putting their health at risk.”

In addition to body size, the researchers looked at the connection between perceived attractiveness and substance use.

Investigators discovered girls who thought they were not at all good-looking were more likely to smoke. Conversely, girls who thought they were very good-looking were more likely to binge drink.

Investigators believe this occurs because attractiveness is often associated with popularity, which is related to increased alcohol use.

To improve body image awareness, Ramseyer Winter suggested that parents, schools and health providers need to be aware of body shaming language and correct such behavior to help children identify with positive body image messages.

Body shaming language can affect teenagers who have both positive and negative perceptions of themselves.

Source: University of Missouri

Teens’ Poor Body Image Tied to More Drinking, Smoking

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2017). Teens’ Poor Body Image Tied to More Drinking, Smoking. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/22/teens-poor-body-image-tied-to-more-drinking-smoking/122287.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 22 Jun 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.