A new study has found that teenagers who are concerned about their ballooning weight may be vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and may even attempt to take their lives.
In the study involving 14,000 high school students, researchers found that teens who believed they were overweight were at greater risk for suicide attempts than those who didn't believe so.
"Our findings show that both perceived and actual overweight increase risk for suicide attempt," said lead study author Dr Monica Swahn, associate dean for research at the College of Health and Human Sciences and an associate professor in the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University.
And the association was as strong for boys as for girls, contrary to what the researchers had originally expected.
The study also showed that teens with a BMI that indicated they were indeed overweight were more likely to be at risk for suicide attempts.
"This is a major concern since more and more children and youth are becoming overweight and obese," said Swahn.
Hatim Omar, M.D., chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Kentucky, said his own experience has led him to believe that perceived obesity does increase both depression and suicide risk.
"Teens are vulnerable because of their development and any actual or perceived changes in their lives, including weight issues, can potentially increase the risk of depression or suicide," he said.
The researchers suggest that understanding the associations can help in the development of appropriate strategies for suicide prevention.
"We cannot only focus prevention strategies on those who are overweight and who are concerned about their weight but we also need to include youth who feel that they are overweight even though they may not be," Swahn added.
The study appears in Journal of Adolescent Health.