Body dissatisfaction significantly increases teens' risk of depression, researchers say.
The degree of heightened risk ranged from 50% to 285%, according to the report published online Dec. 8 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
"These findings demonstrate that body dissatisfaction should be considered as a public health issue of pressing concern," concluded a team led by researcher Anna Bornioli, of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Their study included more than 3,700 teens in England who, at age 14, were asked to rate their satisfaction with their physical appearance. Overall, both boys and girls were mildly satisfied with their body, but girls were more dissatisfied than boys.
Girls tended to be unhappy with their thighs, stomach and weight, while boys tended to dislike their body build, stomach and hips, the researchers said.
Nearly one in three girls and around one in seven boys were dissatisfied with their weight, the investigators found, and about one-quarter of girls and one in seven boys were dissatisfied with their figure.
At age 18, the teens were assessed for symptoms of depression. One in 10 girls and one in 20 boys reported at least one mild depressive episode, nearly 7% of the girls and nearly 3% of the boys reported at least one moderately severe depressive episode, and 1.5% of girls and 0.7% of boys reported at least one severe depressive episode.
Body dissatisfaction at age 14 predicted any level of depressive episode among the girls, and mild and severe depressive episodes among the boys by the time they were 18.
Among girls, each increase in body dissatisfaction at age 14 was associated with an increased risk of at least one mild (63%), moderate (67%) and/or severe (84%) depressive episode at the age of 18.
Among boys, each increase in body dissatisfaction at age 14 was associated with an increased risk of at least one mild (50%) and/or severe (285%) depressive episode at the age of 18.
Body dissatisfaction affects up to 61% of teens worldwide and "is highly prevalent among young people in the general population and has an increasing incidence; the findings indicate that reducing body dissatisfaction might be an effective strategy to reduce mental health issues," Bornioli's group said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on children/teens and body image.
SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, news release, Dec. 7, 2020