Differences in motivations and weight loss behaviors in young adults and older adults in the National Weight Control Registry

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Mar;21(3):449-53. doi: 10.1002/oby.20053.


Objective: The goal of this study was to compare young adults (YA) and older adults (OA) in the National Weight Control Registry on motivations for weight loss and weight-loss behaviors.

Design and methods: Participants (n = 2,964, 82% female, 94% White, BMI = 24.8 ± 4.4) were divided into two age groups (18-35 vs. 36-50) and compared on motivations, strategies for weight loss, diet, physical activity (PA), and the three-factor eating questionnaire.

Results: YA were 28.6% of the sample (n = 848). YA and OA achieved similar weight losses (P = 0.38), but duration of maintenance was less in YA (43 vs. 58 months, P < 0.001). YA were more likely to cite appearance and social motivations for weight loss, were less motivated by health, and were less likely to report a medical trigger for weight loss (P's < 0.001). YA were more likely to use exercise classes and to lose weight on their own, and less likely to use a commercial program (P's < 0.001). YA reported engaging in more high-intensity PA (P = 0.001). There were no group differences in total calories consumed (P = 0.47), or percent calories from fat (P = 0.97), alcohol (P = 0.52), or sugar-sweetened beverages (P = 0.26).

Conclusions: YA successful weight losers (SWL) are motivated more by appearance and social influences than OA, and physical activity appears to play an important role in their weight-loss efforts. The differences reported by YA and OA SWL should be considered when developing weight-loss programs for YA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Registries*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Weight Loss*
  • Young Adult