Deakin University

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Economic costs associated with unhealthy weight control behaviors among Australian adolescents

journal contribution
posted on 2023-12-18, 04:45 authored by TTH Thai, Ha LeHa Le, Cathy MihalopoulosCathy Mihalopoulos, SB Austin, LKD Le
Objective: This study explored the relationship between unhealthy weight control behaviors (UWCBs) and their associated economic costs among adolescents using the 2014–2018 Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Methods: LSAC data in Wave 6 (n = 3538 adolescents aged 14–15 years), Wave 7 n = 3089 adolescents aged 16–17 years), and Wave 8 (n = 3037 adolescents aged 18–19 years) were derived from a representative sample of Australian adolescents. UWCBs were measured using the self-reported Branched Eating Disorder Test questionnaire. UWCBs were sub-classified into having fasting behaviors, using weight loss supplements or purging behaviors. Economic costs include healthcare and productivity costs to caregivers. Healthcare costs were measured using data from the Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits, which includes both medical and pharmaceutical costs. Productivity losses were measured using caregivers' lost leisure time due to UWCBs among adolescents. Results: The mixed effect model identified statistically significant higher economic costs (mean difference = $453, 95% CIs $154, $752), higher health care costs (mean difference = $399, 95% CIs $102, $695), and higher productivity costs (mean difference = $59, 95% CIs $29, $90) for adolescents with UWCBs compared to their peers with no UWCBs. Subgroup analysis revealed that higher costs were associated with fasting and purging behaviors. Discussion: UWCBs were associated with increased economic costs during adolescence. Our finding suggests there should be a policy focus on tackling UWCBs to reduce the economic burden on the healthcare system and society. Public Significance: The study contributes to existing knowledge by investigating the direct healthcare costs and productivity losses associated with unhealthy weight control behaviors in Australian adolescents (14–18 years old) using a dataset that follows Australian adolescents over time. We found that engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviors such as fasting, using weight loss supplements, and purging was linked to higher costs among adolescents, suggesting policies should focus on addressing these behaviors.



International Journal of Eating Disorders




United States