Extreme Weight-Control Behaviors and Suicide Risk Among High School Students

Emily R. Johnson, Robert M. Weiler, Tracey E. Barnett, Lisa N. Pealer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15-19. Research has established an association across numerous risk factors and suicide, including depression, substance abuse, bullying victimization, and feelings of alienation. However, the connection between disordered eating as manifested in extreme weight-control behaviors (EWCB), and suicidal thoughts, ideation, and attempts among adolescents is less understood. Given the prevalence of adolescent suicide, this investigation examined associations between EWCB and suicide risk among high school students. METHODS: Data were collected from a convenience sample of 4178 students in grades 9-12 attending 5 public high schools using the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questionnaire. Logistic regressions were used to estimate associations between EWCB and suicide controlling for grade level and race, reported separately by sex. RESULTS: Students who reported seriously considering suicide had higher odds of exhibiting all 3 EWCBs [adjusted odds ratio (AOR)(male) = 3.0 (confidence interval (CI): 1.4, 6.5); AOR(female) = 4.5 (CI: 2.5, 8.3)]. Moreover, students who reported they made plans about suicide were also more likely to exhibit all EWCBs [AOR(male) = 3.7 (CI: 1.7, 7.9); AOR(female) = 4.2 (CI: 2.3, 7.7)]. CONCLUSIONS: EWCBs were significantly associated with suicide risk, furthering the evidence suggesting a link between disordered eating and suicide. Findings demonstrated the need for school health services that address disordered eating in the effort to reduce adolescent suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Adolescents
  • Health risk
  • High school students
  • Suicidality
  • Suicide
  • Survey research
  • Teenagers
  • Unhealthy eating
  • Weight-control behaviors
  • Youth Risk Behavior Survey


Dive into the research topics of 'Extreme Weight-Control Behaviors and Suicide Risk Among High School Students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this