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Association between selected individual and environmental characteristics in relation to health behavior of Brazilian adolescents



The study investigates the evolution of healthy behaviors (healthy eating and regular physical activity) in Brazilian adolescents during 2012 and 2015, and its associations with self-assessment of body weight and adoption of weight control attitudes, in the context of diverse household features, school environments, and regional characteristics.


Two cross-sectional surveys of Brazilian adolescents attending the ninth grade in 2012 and 2015 were gathered comprising a national sample. Data from 209,601 completed surveys were analyzed using robust error estimates of ordinary least squares regressions.


Results showed that there was a decrease in the frequency of healthy foods consumption and recommended physical activity level between 2012 and 2015. The regression analyses revealed that healthy eating and physical activity were significantly higher for adolescents with normal weight perception (i.e., did not perceive themselves to have either low or excess body weight) and for adolescents who were male, were members of middle socioeconomic stratum families, and had mothers with college degrees. In addition, healthy eating was significantly higher for adolescents who did not wish to lose weight, did not watch TV while eating, went to public schools, and lived with both parents. Ethnic differences varied based on region, with healthy eating being significantly higher among black/mulato/indigenous adolescents in the South and Southeast regions, but significantly higher among white/yellow adolescents in the North region.


Ethnic and gender-related differences were identified in health behaviors and attitudes towards weight control of Brazilian adolescents. Findings indicate the relevance of individual characteristics combined with the influence of social networks for the adoption of healthy behaviors among adolescent students.

Level of evidence

Level IV, evidence obtained from multiple time series without intervention.

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Correspondence to Mariana R. Haddad.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Students interviewed in the surveys performed by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) were presented and signed informed consent to previous to participation in the study, and the surveys were approved by the National Committee of Ethics in Research (CONEP), opinion nos. 16805/2012 and 1006467/2015.

Informed consent

Informed consent was presented to students interviewed in the surveys by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (opinion nos. 16805/2012 and 1006467/2015) and data without individual identification was made publicly available ( for research purposes without requirement for further informed consent. Regarding authors participating in the coauthorship of the manuscript, all authors read and agreed with the final version of the manuscript.

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Haddad, M.R., Sarti, F.M. & Nishijima, M. Association between selected individual and environmental characteristics in relation to health behavior of Brazilian adolescents. Eat Weight Disord 26, 331–343 (2021).

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  • Adolescents
  • Eating habits
  • Physical activity
  • Health behavior
  • Body weight