Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Extreme thinness in adolescents

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

Some boys and girls are not just slim or 'thin' but extermely thin. The aim of this study from Finland by Mason et al. (2016) titled: 'Family factors and health behaviour of thin adolescent boys and girls' and published in JAN was: 'to examine prevalence of extreme thinness and thinness in adolescent boys and girls and to study associations between family factors, health behaviour and thinness in boys and girls.'

A large national sample of over 70,000 boys and girls (12-17) was studied and they were classed as being within the normal weight range, thin or extremely thin.  Then lifestyle and family factors were studied in relation to thinness. The results showed that more girls than boys were extremely thin and there was a range of factors such as exercise and smoking associated with this as well as family factors. Education among mothers and being familiar with the social patterns of the adolescents was associated with thinness - if parents were unfamiliar and mothers had lower education, the children were likely to be thinner. Eating a proper family meal was associated with less thinness. Smokers were also likely to be thin as were those who did not actively exercise.

The authors conclude: 'The results show thinness in adolescent girls to be more common than in adolescent boys. The results also show associations between adolescent thinness and health behaviour and family factors. These results are partly supported by previous international studies. However, longitudinal studies are needed to explain the causes of adolescent thinness' and: '(f)indings of this study can be used by both nursing and other healthcare professionals when planning and evaluating adolescents’ health check-ups or interventions in weight management, health behaviour or exercise. Nurses should be aware of the results when meeting up with adolescents and their families and discussing issues in adolescent health in clinics or at schools. For the healthcare policy makers, it is important to know that thin adolescents co-exist among their normal weight and overweight peers and the prevalence of thinness is similar to the other developed countries.'

You can listen to this as a podcast


MASON A., RANTANEN A., KIVIMӒKI H., KOIVISTO A.-M. & JORONEN K. (2016) Family factors and health behaviour of thin adolescent boys and girls. Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.13096

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