Teenage girls who diet are more likely to engage in other health-compromising behaviours, including smoking, binge drinking, and skipping breakfast, a University of Waterloo study recently found.
Compare to girls who were not dieting at the time of initial data collection, those who were dieting were more likely to engage in one or more clusters of other risky behaviours three years later. “It might seem natural for there to be a connection between dieting and behaviours such as smoking and skipping meals, but the explanation is not so clear for something like binge drinking,” said Amanda Raffoul, who led the study. “Our findings suggest that dieting and other risky health behaviours may be related to common underlying factors, such as poor body image.”
The researchers examined data from more than 3,300 high school girls in Ontario who participated in a longitudinal school-based study called COMPASS, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The study found dieters were 1.6 times more likely to smoke and skip breakfast, and 1.5 times more likely to smoke and engage in binge drinking. “This study points to the importance of looking at factors related to health, including behaviours and the array of influences on them, in combination,” said Sharon Kirkpatrick, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems and co-author on the study. “Only by understanding the complex ways in which these factors interact can we identify effective interventions, as well as predict and monitor potential unintended effects of such interventions.”
Source: Dieting predicts engagement in multiple risky behaviours among adolescent Canadian girls: a longitudinal analysis. Amanda Raffoul, Scott T. Leatherdale, Sharon I Kirkpatrick. Canadian journal of public health. Revue canadienne de santé publique 109(1):61-69.