Obese and overweight girls more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors compared to normal weight girls according to a recent study. It’s not the first time this has been shown to be true and here are the details.
Previous studies have shown that overweight and obese adolescent females are more likely than their normal weight peers to have intercourse before age 13, are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, and are less likely to use contraception.
A new national study looked at girls according to their weight and placed them in either the overweight or obese category, then divided them in to two categories of self-esteem (normal or low.) Of girls who were overweight or obese 37% reported having sexual intercourse. Of those who reported having intercourse, 76% reported being over age 13 at the time. Overweight and obese females were more likely to have sexual intercourse before age 13, become pregnant, and less likely to use oral contraception regularly.
A troublesome finding was that obese females were 2 times more likely to have been forced to have sex, compared with their normal weight peers. When asked about their motivations to engage in sex, a significantly higher proportion of overweight and obese females, compared with their normal weight peers, chose the response option “your friends would respect you more.”
When asked about their motivations to use birth control, a significantly higher proportion of overweight and obese females, compared with their normal weight peers, chose the response options “birth control is too much of a hassle to use” and “it is hard to get a boy to use birth control with you.”
What can we learn from this?
1. Overweight and obese adolescent females should be considered a vulnerable population.
2. Physicians and parents should spend time exploring their thoughts about themselves, their peers, and their decisions to engage in sexual behaviors.
3. It is our job to give accurate information, screen for and treat sexually transmitted infections, provide contraception, and encourage parental involvement.
- Dr. O
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