The purpose of this study was to analyze changes in the prevalence of weight reduction behaviors (WRBs) among European adolescents from 26 countries between 2001/2002 and 2017/2018. The impact of the perception of body weight on WLB was also analyzed, with particular attention being paid to overestimation.
The data of 639,194 European adolescents aged 11, 13, and 15 years who participated in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey were analyzed. Age-standardized prevalence rates of WRB were estimated separately by survey round and gender for each country, using the overall 2017/2018 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study population as the standard. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to assess WRB trends over time, adjusted for survey year, body mass index, body weight misperception, and family affluence and stratified by gender and age.
In the 26 countries examined, the overall age-adjusted prevalence rates of WRB were 10.2% among boys and 18.0% among girls. The prevalence of WRB was higher for girls, but in the more recent surveys, gender differences in WRB decreased. There was a significant increase in the percentage of WRB among boys in most countries. Among girls, most countries did not experience significant changes. Increases in body mass index and overestimation of body weight were significant factors increasing the risk of WRB in both genders.
The change in the prevalence of WRB by gender warrants greater attention from researchers and practitioners alike.