Body dissatisfaction -- independent of actual overweight status -- has an impact on suicidal behavior in U.S. girls, researchers said.
The researchers found the perception of being overweight among girls raised the probability of suicidal thoughts by 5.6 percent, the probability of a suicide attempts by 3.2 percent and the probability of injury causing suicide attempts by 0.6 percent.
"The prevalence of body dissatisfaction, among special populations of youths such as non-black girls, is significantly higher than the general youth population, even when the underlying weight is in a healthy range," study co-author Inas Rashad of Georgia State University in Atlanta said in a statement.
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"Interventions that identify and assist these youths and educate them regarding a healthy body image will succeed in lowering suicide attempts."
The researchers found the risk of suicide by adolescent females has the potential to add about $280 million to $350 million to the costs of adolescent obesity, including the direct cost of illnesses and premature mortality.
"If being overweight not only imposes the usual healthcare and labor market costs, but also increases the risk of suicide, we need to take these costs into account when offering solutions," Rashad said.
The study, based on 1999-2007 data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System, is scheduled to be published in Social Science and Medicine.