Risk Taking Similar in Very Obese, Normal Weight Teens

But extremely obese high school students have higher rates of some risky behaviors

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- High school students (HSS) with extreme obesity appear to engage in risky behaviors at a rate similar to that of their healthy weight peers, with higher rates of some high-risk behaviors, according to research published online April 25 in Pediatrics.

Megan Benoit Ratcliff, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues consulted the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey to compare tobacco use, drug and alcohol use, high-risk sexual behavior, and suicidal behavior in 410 HSS with extreme obesity and 8,669 healthy weight peers.

The researchers found little difference between the two groups when it came to drug and alcohol use, high-risk sexual behaviors, and suicidal behaviors, though there were exceptions. Male and female students with extreme obesity were more likely to have tried cigarettes (odds ratio [OR], 1.5 for males and 2.0 for females) than their healthy weight peers. Females with extreme obesity had lower odds than healthy weight females of having had sex (OR, 0.5) but higher odds of drinking alcohol or using drugs before their last sexual encounter (OR, 4.6), currently smoking (OR, 2.3), and using smokeless tobacco (OR, 4.6). Male students with extreme obesity had higher odds than healthy weight males of smoking before age 13 (OR, 1.4).

"With few exceptions, HSS with extreme obesity engage in high-risk behaviors at rates comparable with healthy weight peers, sometimes in even more dangerous ways. Health care providers should assess risk-taking behaviors in this cohort," the authors write.

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