In the past, researchers believed that extreme obesity in teens might cause a safer lifestyle. But according to a nationwide U.S. survey, overweight teens may be more likely to engage in risky behavior than their thinner classmates, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The survey found that although obese girls may be less likely to have sex, those who are sexually active sometimes take greater risks, such as using drugs and alcohol before sex, having sex before the age of 13, and having multiple partners.
Results also showed that obese girls in the U.S. drink equal amounts of alcohol as their peers, and are more likely to smoke or chew tobacco.
The survey was done at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio and analyzed the behavior of 410 extremely obese teens and 8,669 average-weight teens. It asked about the use of drugs, tobacco or alcohol, sexual encounters, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
The new findings surprised lead author Meg Zeller.
“Given what we do know about what their day to day life is like, extreme obesity in particular being highly stigmatized, we expected that these teens would be more socially isolated and more peripheral in a peer group, and therefore less likely to be exposed to high risk scenarios that a typical teen is exposed to,” said Zeller, an associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, in an interview.
Zeller added that she would have guessed an opposite conclusion.
The results were published in the May issue of Pediatrics.