Eating attitudes, health-risk behaviors, self-esteem, and anxiety among adolescent females in a suburban high school

J Adolesc Health. 1991 Jul;12(5):377-84. doi: 10.1016/0197-0070(91)90051-m.


In order to determine whether adolescent females with abnormal eating attitudes display lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety than their peers, and whether these adolescents participate in health-risk behaviors to a greater or lesser degree than their peers, we administered a series of questionnaires to the females attending a suburban high school in New York State. The questionnaires, completed by 268 students (mean age, 16.2 years), included data on health-risk behaviors and weight attitudes, an Eating Attitudes Test, a self-esteem scale, and an anxiety inventory. Results indicated that almost two-thirds of the students described themselves as overweight, almost three-quarters felt they were above the healthiest weight for their age and height, and almost four-fifths were above the weight at which they would be most happy; 18% of the students scored 30 or more on the Eating Attitudes Test, a score suggestive of an eating disorder. Use of Spearman-rank correlation coefficients and multiple linear regression analysis revealed that those with more unhappiness with their weight and higher scores on the eating attitudes test were more likely to have lower self-esteem and higher anxiety and to participate more in health-risk behaviors, including cigarette smoking, alcohol use, drug use, and sexual activity with more total partners. The data from this study further corroborate the growing belief that health-risk behaviors tend to cluster together in vulnerable adolescents and demonstrate that abnormal eating attitudes and behaviors may be part of this cluster, especially in females with low self-esteem and high levels of anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Anxiety*
  • Attitude*
  • Body Weight
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • New York
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Concept*
  • Suburban Population