Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 1803–1813 | Cite as

Unhealthy Weight Control Behaviors and Related Risk Factors in Massachusetts Middle and High School Students

  • Diane GonsalvesEmail author
  • Helen Hawk
  • Carol Goodenow


Unhealthy weight control behaviors may be precursors to clinical eating disorders; therefore, it is important to identify these actions, and what may trigger them, as early as possible. We used 2009 and 2011 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey data for middle and high school students. We studied age, sex, and race disparities related to unhealthy weight control behaviors in conjunction with other risk factors such as body mass index (BMI), body weight perception, involvement in bullying, and depressive symptoms. The surveys were completed in public schools. Bivariate and multinomial regression analyses were conducted to assess associations between weight control behaviors and BMI categories, body weight perception, bullying involvement, and depressive symptoms. Poor body weight perception, bullying involvement, and depressive symptoms were associated with significantly elevated odds of reporting unhealthy weight control behaviors in both middle and high school students. Most patterns were consistent for middle and high school students, with obesity and bullying involvement being prevailing risks for high school students. Though females were more likely to report unhealthy weight control behaviors we also showed the rarely presented prevalence of male involvement in disordered eating behaviors including those who perceived themselves to be underweight. Health education classes and school-based interventions may be two strategies to help prevent the development of unhealthy weight control behaviors. Continuation of youth surveys that gather data on weight control behaviors and known risk factors is essential for observing changes in behaviors over time.


Unhealthy weight control behaviors Adolescents Body weight perception BMI Bullying Depressive symptoms 



Youth Health Survey


Youth Risk Behavior Survey


Body mass index


Confidence interval


Odds ratio



We would like to thank all of the students who participated in the 2009 and 2011 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey. We would also like to thank Anthony Roman and Chiniqua Milligan for their help with data collection and recruitment efforts. Thank you to Maria McKenna for her comments and guidance on data analysis. Thank you to Anne Sheetz for her help discussing school based interventions. Support for this study was provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Survey Program, Bureau of Health Information, Statistics, Research, and EvaluationMassachusetts Department of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary EducationBostonUSA

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