TUESDAY, Jan. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Teen boys who think
they're too skinny are at increased risk for depression, and
they're more likely to be bullied and use steroids, two new studies
In one study, researchers analyzed data gathered from more than
2,100 boys who were about 16 years old in 1996 and followed for 13
years. The study included more than 1,400 whites, about 500 blacks
and more than 230 Hispanics. The remainder were Asian/Pacific
Islander, Native American or "other."
Boys who thought they were very underweight but actually were
average weight or higher had the highest levels of depressive
symptoms, the study found. These results remained steady throughout
the length of the study, which ended when the participants were
close to 30 years old.
Teen boys who believed they were overweight but were actually a
healthy weight were also more likely to be depressed than those who
believed they were of average weight. However, they were not as
likely to be depressed as those who believed they were very
underweight, the study found.
In the second study, researchers analyzed data from a 2009
survey of more than 8,000 boys in grades nine through 12 across the
United States. The study found that those who believed themselves
to be underweight were more likely to have depression than those
who were average weight or overweight.
Boys who believed they were underweight were more likely to be
victims of bullying and more likely to use steroids, according to
the second study, which was published online recently in the
Psychology of Men & Masculinity.
While the research found an association between being
underweight and being bullied and depressed, it did not prove a
"These studies highlight the often underreported issue of
distorted body image among adolescent boys," Aaron Blashill, who
led both studies, said in a journal news release.
"Teenage girls tend to internalize and strive for a thin
appearance, whereas teenage boys tend to emphasize a more muscular
body type," said Blashill, a staff psychologist at Massachusetts
General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.
"We found that some of these boys who feel they are unable to
achieve that often unattainable image are suffering and may be
taking drastic measures."
Blashill said doctors treating depressed teen boys --
particularly those who believe they are underweight or bullied --
should be aware of the possibility of steroid use.
"Unfortunately, there is little evidence-based research on
effective therapies for steroid use among adolescent boys," he
said. "However, cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be
effective for body-image concerns and could be helpful for boys
considering using or already using steroids."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how
assess your weight.