Weight-teasing among adolescents: correlations with weight status and disordered eating behaviors

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2002 Jan;26(1):123-31. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801853.


Objectives: This study aimed to assess the prevalence of perceived weight-teasing and associations with unhealthy weight-control behaviors and binge eating in a population-based sample of youth. Particular focus was placed on overweight youth, who may be most vulnerable to weight-teasing.

Methods: The study population included 4746 adolescents from St Paul/Minneapolis public schools who completed surveys and anthropometric measurements as part of Project EAT, a population-based study of eating patterns and weight concerns among teens.

Results: There were statistically significant associations between perceived weight-teasing and weight status; both overweight and underweight youth reported higher levels of teasing than average weight youth. Very overweight youth (body mass index (BMI) > or = 95th percentile) were most likely to be teased about their weight; 63% of very overweight girls, and 58% of very overweight boys reported being teased by their peers, while weight-teasing by family members was reported by 47% of these girls and 34% of these boys. Youth who were teased about their weight, particularly overweight girls, reported that it bothered them. Perceived weight-teasing was significantly associated with disordered eating behaviors among overweight and non-overweight girls and boys. For example, among overweight youth, 29% of girls and 18% of boys who experienced frequent weight-teasing reported binge-eating as compared to 16% of girls and 7% of boys who were not teased.

Conclusions: Many adolescents, in particular those who are overweight, report being teased about their weight and being bothered by the teasing. Weight-teasing is associated with disordered eating behaviors that may place overweight youth at increased risk for weight gain. Educational interventions and policies are needed to curtail weight-related mistreatment among youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Peer Group
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires