Indoor tanning by teens associated with eating disorder behaviors

April 8, 2014

Teenagers who use indoor tanning devices may be at greater risk for harmful weight control behaviors, according to results of a recent study.

 

Teenagers who use indoor tanning devices may be at greater risk for harmful weight control behaviors, according to results of a recent study.

Researchers with New York University School of Medicine examined pooled data on 26,951 high school-age students from the 2009 and 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Study authors used multivariate logistic regression to assess associations between recent indoor tanning use and recently attempting weight loss through the following behaviors: taking a pill, powder or liquid without physician consent; fasting for more than 24 hours; and vomiting or taking a laxative.

The pooled data demonstrated that 23 percent of female adolescent had used indoor tanning within the past year, while 6.5 percent of males had also done so. Females who used indoor tanning were, on average, more likely to have fasted (odds ratio [OR] 1.2; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.0-1.5), taken a powder, pill or liquid (OR, 2.4; 95 percent CI, 1.9-3.0) and vomited or consumed a laxative (OR, 1.4; 95 percent CI, 1.1.-1.7) within the previous 30 days than those who did not use indoor tanning.

Males who used indoor tanning in the previous year were, on average, more likely to have fasted (OR, 2.3; 95 percent CI, 1.7-3.1), taken a pill, powder, or liquid (OR, 4.4; 95 percent CI, 3.3-6.0), and vomited or taken a laxative to lose weight (OR, 7.1; 95 percent CI, 4.4-11.4) within the previous 30 days.

“Prior research has linked indoor tanning use with other risky behaviors, including substance abuse and anxiety,” study authors wrote. “Individuals’ body image concerns, though, may prove as or more important for many individuals for a reason underlying their decision to indoor tan.”

Study authors also noted that the fact the association between harmful weight control behaviors and indoor tanning was stronger among males warranted comment.

“The number of males who perceived themselves as underweight was increased among indoor tanner, albeit nonsignficantly,” they wrote. “This may suggest that, for males, it could be desirable among those of low weight who already engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors to begin to tan. For females, by contrast, indoor tanning may be early evidence of increased risk to develop more frank disease.”

The findings were published in the April issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.