Body Image Concerns Linked to Alcohol Use in Teen Girls

Teenage girl buttons pants in front of mirrorAdolescent girls with a distorted body image are more likely to consume alcohol, according to a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Teen girls who try to alter their weight when there is no medical need to do so, the study found, are also more likely to engage in heavy drinking—defined as five or more drinks in a few hours.

Body image issues are often rampant among teen and preteen girls. A 2012 report by the Keep It Real campaign found 80% of 10-year-olds have been on a diet. The 2013 Girls’ Attitude Survey found more than half of girls age 14 and older are dissatisfied with their appearance.

Body Image and Alcohol Use

The study used data from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. This nationwide survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed 6,579 teen girls ages 14-18.

Most participants (67.7 percent) had consumed at least one alcoholic beverage, and 17.8% had engaged in heavy drinking in the 30 days prior to the survey. More than 37% of participants had a distorted body image. Girls with body image issues were 1.2 times more likely to have consumed alcohol.

Older teens were more likely than younger teens to consume alcohol. Girls who identified as Latina or Hispanic, girls who were sexually active before age 13, and girls who smoked cigarettes in the 30 days prior to the survey were also more likely to drink alcohol. Girls with a distorted body image were less likely to consume alcohol in excess if they identified as African-American.

Although the study points to the role of body image in the decision to consume alcohol, the study’s authors caution that the study’s reliance on self-reports is a significant limitation. Participants in self-report surveys may alter their responses due to embarrassment or a desire to meet the expectations of researchers.

References:

  1. Lefland, C. L. (2012, July 2). Study finds 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have been on diet. Retrieved from http://seattle.cbslocal.com/2012/07/02/study-finds-80-percent-of-10-year-old-girls-have-been-on-diet/
  2. Meikle, J. (2013, November 28). Growing number of girls suffer low self-esteem, says report. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/29/girls-low-self-esteem-rising-girlguiding-report
  3. Weight and body image misperception associated with alcohol use among teen girls. (2016, December 14). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/tuhs-wab121316.php

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  • Janna

    Janna

    January 3rd, 2017 at 1:00 PM

    I think that so much of this sort of goes with the territory. unfortunately most girls are worrying about body image at the same exact time that drinking starts to present opportunities so you start to see why they so often go hand in hand.

  • Hollis

    Hollis

    January 4th, 2017 at 5:08 PM

    Have the good old days of when kids could just be kids really disappeared?

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