Prevalence and trends of underweight and BMI distribution changes in Japanese teenagers based on the 2001 National Survey data

Ann Hum Biol. May-Jun 2007;34(3):354-61. doi: 10.1080/03014460701300109.


Background: Excessive thinness has been glamorized among Japanese adolescent girls, and unhealthy dieting to lose weight has become a popular practice among them. The prevalence of underweight in contemporary Japanese girls in comparison with that of boys, however, remains to be studied.

Aim: The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and trends of underweight in contemporary Japanese teenagers of both sexes using nationally representative cross-sectional data.

Subjects and methods: Underweight was defined as BMI < 3rd percentile by age and sex of the 1978-1981 reference population as previously reported. These reference values were compared with BMIs of the contemporary population based on the 2001 Cross-sectional National Survey data of Japanese teenagers (215 972 boys and 216 496 girls).

Results: The prevalence of underweight was approximately 2-3% in junior high school students of both sexes, 12.5-14.5 years of age, approximately 3% in senior high school students of both sexes, 15.5-16.5 years of age, and approximately 4% in senior high school students of both sexes, 17.5 years of age.

Conclusion: The prevalence of underweight decreased among Japanese teenage students of both sexes during the past decades. Female preponderance in the prevalence of underweight was not confirmed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Distribution
  • Thinness / epidemiology*