TitleLink Between Perceived Body Weight and Smoking Behavior Among Adolescents.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsYoon, J, Bernell, S
JournalNicotine Tob Res
Date Published2016 Apr 23

INTRODUCTION: This study investigates a relationship between overweight perception and smoking among adolescents.

METHODS: Data were retrieved from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a biennial survey of a nationally representative sample of students in grades 9 through 12 in the United States. We analyze five waves of repeated cross-sections (N = 73 376) for the years 2005-2013. We estimate a recursive simultaneous-equations system in which body weight perception, which is a function of actual weight, influences smoking status. Outcome measures are binary indicators for current smoking and frequent current smoking. Perceived weight is categorized into very overweight perception, slightly overweight perception, and about the right weight/underweight perception.

RESULTS: In comparison to adolescents who perceive themselves to be the right weight or underweight, adolescents who perceive themselves to be very overweight are 6.1 percentage points (pp) (standard error [SE] = 1.6pp) more likely to currently smoking and 3.3pp (SE = 1.2pp) more likely to frequently smoke. Adolescents with slightly overweight perception are 7.9pp (SE = 1.0pp) and 2.5pp (SE = 0.6pp) more likely to currently smoke and frequently smoke, respectively, as compared to those with the right weight/underweight perception. The relationships are larger for females, and appear to be mediated by weight-loss activity.

DISCUSSION: In an era of tight budgets, it is crucial to address both obesity and smoking in manners that do not work at cross purposes. Strategies to combat youth smoking may be more effective if the perception of being overweight is considered an important risk factor, especially among female adolescents.

IMPLICATIONS: We find that perception of being overweight is an important causal risk factor for adolescent smoking. Main findings of this study imply that even a slight change in the perception of body weight may lead to a significant change in smoking behavior among adolescents, especially among females and that the perception of being overweight induces adolescents to smoke regularly. Unlike most prior studies, we discovered a positive effect of slight overweight perception on smoking for adolescent males. Our findings emphasize the importance of addressing both obesity and smoking in manners that do not work at cross purposes.

Alternate JournalNicotine Tob. Res.
PubMed ID27107434