Prevalence of dieting and fear of weight gain across ages: a community sample from adolescents to the elderly

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OBJECTIVES: The current study aimed to define the prevalence of dieting and fear of weight gain among men and women across the entire lifespan and identify factors associated with them.

METHODS: Data were available for 31,636 participants (60.2% women; age 13-98 years) from the Netherlands Twin Register. Dieting and fear of weight gain were described by age and sex. Associations with BMI, exercise behavior, urbanization and educational attainment were examined by regression analyses in 19,294 participants.

RESULTS: Dieting was most frequently reported by 35- to 65-year-old women (56.6-63%), and 45- to 65-year-old men (31.7-31.9%). Fear of weight gain was most prevalent in women between 16 and 25 (73.2-74.3%), and in 25- to 55-year-old men (43.2-46.1%). In addition to sex and BMI, dieting and fear of weight gain were associated with each other. Furthermore, fear was associated with the age × sex interaction and educational attainment.

CONCLUSIONS: Dieting and fear of weight gain is common during the entire lifespan for women, but is also endorsed by a substantial number of men. Given the low rate of overweight in young women, the high levels of fear of weight gain are striking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-919
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Public Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017



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