Overweight, obesity, youth, and health-risk behaviors

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Mar;38(3):258-67. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.10.038.


Background: The prevalence and severity of obesity have increased among children and adolescents. Although the medical and psychosocial consequences of youth obesity have been well documented, comparatively less information exists on the association of overweight/obesity with health-risk behaviors, which are considered to be a primary threat to adolescent health.

Purpose: This study aims to examine the association of overweight and obesity with health-risk behaviors among U.S. youth.

Methods: Self-reported height and weight, substance use, violence, and bullying were assessed in a nationally representative sample of students aged 11-17 years (N=7825) who participated in the 2005-2006 Health Behaviors in School-Aged Children survey. Data were analyzed in 2009.

Results: Significant gender and age differences in the relationship of overweight/obesity with risk behaviors were observed. Overweight and obesity were significantly associated with substance use among girls only: Frequent smoking and drinking were associated with overweight and obesity among younger girls, whereas these behaviors were associated with obesity among older girls. Frequent smoking and cannabis use were associated with overweight among younger girls only. Relationships between violent behavior and overweight/obesity were mainly observed among boys: Younger obese boys were more likely to be victims of bullying, whereas older obese boys were more likely to carry weapons compared to boys of normal weight.

Conclusions: Overweight and obese young people are at risk of developing health-compromising behaviors that may compound medical and social problems associated with excess weight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overweight / complications*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • United States
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data