A new study shows that extremely obese teens take risks at about the same rate as their thinner counterparts. And other research shows they may not be at high risk for depression.
According to HealthKey, researchers analyzing CDC data found that extremely obese teenagers (those with BMIs at or above the 99th percentile) were about as likely as other teens to drink, use drugs, or contemplate suicide. They were somewhat more likely to smoke. Extremely obese girls were less likely than their peers to have had sex, but more likely to have done so under the influence of drugs or alcohol — no such difference was found between obese and thinner boys.
Lead study author Meg Zeller says she was surprised by the results:
Given what we do know about what their day to day life is like, extreme obesity in particular being highly stigmatized, we expected that these teens would be more socially isolated and more peripheral in a peer group, and therefore less likely to be exposed to high risk scenarios that a typical teen is exposed to.
But are obese teens always isolated? According to PsychCentral, another study indicates that they may not all be suffering emotionally — researchers found that, on average, obese teens were not more depressed than other kids their age (though when they broke the results down by race, they found that obesity increased the risk of depression somewhat in white teens). Says lead study author Elizabeth Goodman,
People assume that all obese adolescents are unhappy and depressed; that the more obese a teen may be, the greater the impact on his or her mental health. Our findings suggest this assumption is false.
The study authors also pointed out that previous research had focused on teens who sought treatment at weight loss clinics, and may have been more distressed than other obese teens. Of course, just because obese teenagers may not be at higher risk of depression doesn't mean they don't sometimes face stigma or ostracism. And we need to acknowledge and work against the ways obese kids are discriminated against. But at the same time, we should recognize that their weight doesn't make them magically immune to the dangers — or the joys — of adolescence.
Obese Teens Engage In Risky Behavior Too — But In Sometimes Riskier Ways [HealthKey, via LA Times]
Severely Obese Teens May Not Be Depressed [PsychCentral]
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