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

Margarita C. T. Slof‑Op ‘t Landt1  · Eric F. van Furth1,2 · Catharina E. M. van Beijsterveldt3  · Meike Bartels3  · Gonneke Willemsen3  · Eco J. de Geus3  · Lannie Ligthart3  · Dorret I. Boomsma

Data from the Netherlands Twin Register was obtained to evaluate dieting and weight-related fears in 31,636 participants, aged 13-98 years. This study published in the International Journal of Public Health (2017) was the first study to examine fear and dieting behaviors across the lifespan, for both genders. Regression analysis was used to evaluate reports of feared weight gain and dieting behavior as described by age and sex. Additional factors such as BMI, exercise behavior, urbanization and educational attainment were examined. Results suggested that dieting was most frequently reported in females age 35-65 and 45 to 65-year-old men. More specifically, having a higher BMI or being overweight as an adolescent prospectively predicted dieting later in life. Females age 16-25 expressed the most fear of weight gain regardless of whether or not they were overweight. While the majority of men were not afraid of gaining weight, the highest rate of weight fear was found in 25- to 55-year-olds. Findings suggest that while dieting and fear of weight gain is present throughout all phases of life in women, men also endorsed such concerns at various stages in life.