Research Discovers That Teens Are Dieting Because of Weight Worries
A study conducted by researchers from University College London has discovered that in the United Kingdom considerably higher numbers of young men and young women from Generation Z were not only overestimating their weight but also trying to lose weight through dieting.
Data shows that approximately 30% of 14-year old boys and girls were trying to lose weight in 2005. This number grew to 42% in 2015, which raises some concerns. The research discovered that girls who were trying to lose weight would likely experience depressive symptoms.
Dr. Francesca Solmi, the lead author of the study, stated that the team’s research findings demonstrate that how people talk about appearance, health and weight can extensively affect youths’ mental health, adding that efforts to address growing rates of obesity may have unanticipated consequences.
She explained that the growth in dieting among youths was concerning as pilot studies had shown that dieting was ineffective at decreasing body weight in adolescents, especially in the long term. Instead, dieting was found to affect young people’s mental health greatly. For example, researchers found that dieting was a risk factor that led to the development of eating disorders.
The team of researchers analyzed data collected from 22,503 adolescents in the United Kingdom within 30 years from different cohort studies. Data was collected from the following studies: The Millennium Cohort Study, data was gathered in 2015 from people born 2000 to 2002; the Children of the ‘90s study, data was gathered in 2005 from people born in the years 1991 to 1992; and the British Cohort Study, data was gathered in 1986 from people born in the year 1970.
All the adolescents filled out questionnaires that assessed for depressive symptoms in addition to being asked questions such as whether they thought themselves to be overweight, the right weight or underweight. That information was then compared to the individuals’ actual weight and height measurements, whether they exercised or dieted to lose weight, and whether they had been trying to or were trying to lose weight.
The researchers found that 60% and 44% of the study participants had exercised or dieted to lose weight, respectively. This was in comparison with data from 1986, which showed that 7% and 38% of the participants had exercised or dieted to lose some pounds.
The researchers also found that in some studies conducted from 1986 to 2005, both young men and young women were likely to overestimate how much they weighed; however, the number grew by 2015, which led the researchers to the conclusion that the increase in efforts to lose weight was not fueled by the growth in the rates of obesity. Their findings were reported in “JAMA” Pediatrics.
Solmi explained that the rise of the fitness industry as well as social media and how the media itself portrays thinness may explain the study’s findings, while public health messaging on exercise and calorie restriction may cause unintentional harm.
She noted that public health campaigns that talk about obesity should avoid weight stigma while also taking into consideration the adverse mental health effects their campaign may have. Therefore, instead of campaigning for healthy weight, they should promote wel-lbeing and health, which may positively affect both physical and mental health.
Still on the matter of weight and dieting, the U.S. is estimated to spend approximately $3 trillion each year on managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, which is often related to weight. DarioHealth Corp. (NASDAQ: DRIO) is playing its part by developing smartphone-based technologies (apps and software) that can help patients to implement the behavioral adjustments they need to make in order to improve the quality of their lives despite having chronic conditions.
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