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Weight Control Behaviors

Narrative

In 2011, 46.0 percent of high school students reported that they were trying to lose weight. Nearly twice as many adolescent females (61.2 percent) reported that they were trying to lose weight as males (31.6 percent); this ratio persisted across all grade levels (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Non-Hispanic Black students were less likely to report trying to lose weight (40.9 percent) than non-Hispanic Whites (44.8 percent), and Hispanic students (52.6 percent). Among all racial/ ethnic groups, with the exception of non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native students, females were more likely to report trying to lose weight than males.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System asked students about behaviors to lose or keep from gaining weight in the 30 days prior to the survey: fasting for 24 hours or more, taking supplements, including diet pills, powders or liquids, and vomiting or taking laxatives. Overall, 12.2 percent, 5.1 percent, and 4.3 percent of high school students reported engaging in each of these behaviors, respectively.

The proportion of students reporting each of these behaviors was similar across grade level; however, significant sex differences were observed. For example, more than twice as many females reported fasting for 24 hours or more than males (17.4 percent compared to 7.2 percent) and 6.0 percent of females reporting vomiting or taking laxatives, compared to 2.5 percent of males. The prevalence of weight control behaviors also varied by race/ethnicity. Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely than non-Hispanic Black, Asian, and White students to report either fasting for 24 hours or more or vomiting/taking laxatives (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

children weight control behaviors

This image is described in the Data section.

children weight control behaviors

Data

High School Students Who Tried to Lose Weight in the Past 12 Months, by Race/Ethnicity and Sex, 2011
Race/Ethnicity Percent of High School Students
Total Female Male
*Sex-specific data for Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders do not meet standards for reliability or precision.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Online: High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Accessed: 08/09/12.
Total 46.0 61.2 31.6
Non-Hispanic White 44.8 61.4 29.2
Non-Hispanic Black 40.9 55.2 26.6
Hispanic 52.6 66.4 39.6
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 52.7 59.2 46.8
Non-Hispanic Asian 43.7 54.5 34.5
Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 56.2 n/a* n/a*
Non-Hispanic Multiple Race 46.4 60.3 31.7
High School Students Who Engaged in Selected Weight Control Behaviors in Past 30 Days, by Sex, 2011
Weight Control Behavior Percent of High School Students
Total Female Male
*Includes diet pills, powders or liquids.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Online: High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Accessed: 08/09/12.
Fasted for 24 hours 12.2 17.4 7.2
Supplement Use* 5.1 5.9 4.2
Vomiting or Laxative Use 4.3 6.0 2.5