International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 62, Issue 8, pp 911–919 | Cite as

Prevalence of dieting and fear of weight gain across ages: a community sample from adolescents to the elderly

  • Margarita C. T. Slof-Op ‘t Landt
  • Eric F. van Furth
  • Catharina E. M. van Beijsterveldt
  • Meike Bartels
  • Gonneke Willemsen
  • Eco J. de Geus
  • Lannie Ligthart
  • Dorret I. Boomsma
Original Article



The current study aimed to define the prevalence of dieting and fear of weight gain among men and women across the entire lifespan and identify factors associated with them.


Data were available for 31,636 participants (60.2% women; age 13–98 years) from the Netherlands Twin Register. Dieting and fear of weight gain were described by age and sex. Associations with BMI, exercise behavior, urbanization and educational attainment were examined by regression analyses in 19,294 participants.


Dieting was most frequently reported by 35- to 65-year-old women (56.6–63%), and 45- to 65-year-old men (31.7–31.9%). Fear of weight gain was most prevalent in women between 16 and 25 (73.2–74.3%), and in 25- to 55-year-old men (43.2–46.1%). In addition to sex and BMI, dieting and fear of weight gain were associated with each other. Furthermore, fear was associated with the age × sex interaction and educational attainment.


Dieting and fear of weight gain is common during the entire lifespan for women, but is also endorsed by a substantial number of men. Given the low rate of overweight in young women, the high levels of fear of weight gain are striking.


Dieting Fear of weight gain Prevalence Community study Lifespan 



Funding was obtained from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW) Grants 480-04-004, 400-05-717, 463-06-001, 451-04-034, Addiction-31160008, Spinozapremie 56-464-14192, European Science Foundation (GenomEUtwin, EU/QLRT-2001-01254; ENGAGE, HEALTH-F4-2007-201413) and the European Research Council (ERC Advanced 230374, ERC Starting Grant 284167).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Funding was obtained from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW) Grants 480-04-004, 400-05-717, 463-06-001, 451-04-034, Addiction-31160008, Spinozapremie 56-464-14192, European Science Foundation (GenomEUtwin, EU/QLRT-2001-01254; ENGAGE, HEALTH-F4-2007-201413) and the European Research Council (Advanced 230374, Starting Grant 284167).

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Supplementary material

38_2017_948_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 31 KB)


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margarita C. T. Slof-Op ‘t Landt
    • 1
  • Eric F. van Furth
    • 1
    • 2
  • Catharina E. M. van Beijsterveldt
    • 3
  • Meike Bartels
    • 3
  • Gonneke Willemsen
    • 3
  • Eco J. de Geus
    • 3
  • Lannie Ligthart
    • 3
  • Dorret I. Boomsma
    • 3
  1. 1.Rivierduinen Eating Disorders UrsulaLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryLeiden University Medical CenterLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Biological PsychologyVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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