Disordered eating behaviors: what about boys?

J Adolesc Health. 2009 Feb;44(2):111-117. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.07.019. Epub 2008 Oct 29.


Purpose: To determine the characteristics specific to boys with disordered eating behaviors (DEB) and the general context in which these DEB occur.

Method: Data were drawn from the SMASH02 database, a survey carried out among post-mandatory school students in Switzerland aged 16-20 years in 2002. Only males (N=3890) were included, and were classified into into one of four groups based on their level of concern about weight/food and on their eating behaviors, as follows: group 1: one concern without behavior (N=862); group 2: more than one concern without behavior (N=361); group 3: at least one behavior (N=798); and a control group (N=1869), according to previously validated items. Groups were compared for personal, family, school, experience of violence, and health-compromising behaviors variables on the bivariate level. All significant variables were included in a multinomial logistic regression using Stata 9 software.

Results: About one-half of the boys reported either a concern or unhealthy eating behavior. Compared with the control group, boys from the three groups were more likely to be students and to report a history of sexual abuse, delinquency, depression, and feeling fat. In addition, boys from group 3 were more likely to report a history of dieting, early puberty, peer teasing, having experienced violence, frequent inebriation, and being overweight.

Conclusion: DEB concern adolescent males more frequently than thought and seem to be integrated in a general dysfunctional context, in which violence is predominant. Adolescent males also need to be screened for DEB. Moreover, prevention programs should target the increasing social and media pressure regarding boys ideal body shape and raise public consciousness about this phenomenon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult