Depression risk greater for ‘underweight’ teen boys
Teen boys are not immune to weight and body issues. In fact, a set of recently published studies found that teenage males who considered themselves too thin were at a greater risk of being depressed as teens and adults compared to their peers—even those who considered themselves overweight.
Each of the studies’ findings was published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity. One study found that boys who perceive themselves as too heavy but in reality are not, are more likely to be depressed than teen boys who think they’re average weight. However, the risk for depression for these teens is much less than teen boys who see themselves as too thin.
The second study found that teen boys who feel they’re underweight and reported being bullying victims were also more likely to use steroids and feel depressed than other boys their age.
“Teenage girls tend to internalize and strive for a thin appearance, whereas teenage boys tend to emphasize a more muscular body type,” said author and co-author of the studies Aaron Blashill in a statement. “We found that some of these boys who feel they are unable to achieve that often unattainable image are suffering and may be taking drastic measures,” said Blashill, staff psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty member of Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Research was based on two large representative samples of U.S. teen boys. The first sample included more than 2,000 boys at or near the age of 16 who were followed for 13 years. Teen boys who were actually average weight or heavier but perceived themselves as very underweight reported the highest level of depressive symptoms.
The second sample included more than 8,000 U.S. ninth- and twelfth-grade boys surveyed during one year. Boys who perceived themselves as underweight were more likely to be bullied and reported more symptoms of depression, which in turn predicted steroid use.
“Unfortunately, there is little evidence-based research on effective therapies for steroid use among adolescent boys,” Blashill said. “However, cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be effective for body image concerns and could be helpful for boys considering using or already using steroids.”
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