Socioenvironmental, Personal, and Behavioral Correlates of Severe Obesity among an Ethnically/Racially Diverse Sample of US Adolescents

Child Obes. 2017 Dec;13(6):470-478. doi: 10.1089/chi.2017.0067. Epub 2017 Jun 26.


Background: Severe obesity among adolescents, also known as class 2 and 3 obesity, is increasing in prevalence, yet, little is known about adolescents with severe obesity. The objective of this study was to identify the socioenvironmental, personal, and behavioral correlates of severe obesity among an ethnically/racially diverse sample of US adolescents.

Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of data from participants in the EAT 2010 study (n = 2706) was conducted. Adolescents completed in-class surveys, and height and weight were measured. Severe obesity was defined as a BMI ≥120% of the 95th percentile or ≥35 kg/m2; class 1 obesity as a BMI ≥95th percentile but below severe obesity cut points, overweight as a BMI <95th percentile but ≥85th percentile, and normal weight as a BMI <85th but >5th percentile. General linear models were used to identify differences between adolescents by weight status, adjusted for covariates.

Results: Nine percent of adolescents had severe obesity. Compared with peers of other weight statuses, a greater proportion of adolescents with severe obesity reported parental encouragement to diet and peer weight teasing. Adolescents with severe obesity also reported lower self-esteem and body satisfaction. Binge eating was three times as prevalent among adolescents with severe obesity compared with peers of normal weight and twice as prevalent as among peers with class 1 obesity.

Conclusions: Adolescents with severe obesity report several unique socioenvironmental, personal, and behavioral concerns that may diminish quality of life and may predict increased weight gain over time.

Keywords: adolescence; severe obesity; socioecological influences.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bulimia / epidemiology*
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity, Morbid / epidemiology*
  • Obesity, Morbid / etiology
  • Obesity, Morbid / psychology
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / etiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology
  • Peer Group
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Concept
  • Social Environment*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Gain