Teen Boys Worry About Body Image, Too

Published Online: Friday, January 17, 2014
Although eating disorders are assumed to mainly affect teenaged girls, a recent study finds that young men are also preoccupied with body image. Teenaged boys concerned about their physique were more likely to binge drink, use drugs, and have symptoms of depression.

The study, published online on November 4, 2013, in JAMA Pediatrics, assessed associations between body image concerns and other symptoms of eating disorders and the risks of obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and depressive symptoms in young men aged 12 to 18 years. Data were collected from responses to surveys conducted from 1999 to 2010 as part of the Growing Up Today Study.

Of the 5527 adolescents included in the study, 9.2% reported high concerns with muscularity and 6.3% reported high concerns with thinness and muscularity. Overall, 31% said they had engaged in binge eating or purging at some point. Those concerned with muscularity and thinness were more likely to use drugs, while those who were just concerned with thinness (2.5%) were more likely than their peers to develop depressive symptoms. Some teens reported concerns of muscularity and use of supplements or steroids (2.4%), and these boys were more likely to binge drink and use drugs compared with other teens.

The authors note that these unhealthy behaviors in teenaged boys are often not recognized as weight-related disorders.

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