ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Investigators Summarize the Research on Adolescent Obesity

Adolescent, family, neighborhood, and social characteristics linked to obesity have been investigated in numerous multilevel/hierarchical studies to produce the necessary data to design effective prevention interventions. In a recent scoping study, lead author Dr. Janice M. Utley, Graduate School credentialed course instructor; Dr. Olivia Affuso, associate professor in the department of epidemiology; and Dr. Andrew Rucks, professor in the department of health care organization and policy, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, reviewed such factors as well as the significant findings from these previous peer-reviewed studies (having searched PubMed, CINAHLplus, PsychINFO, and Sociological Abstracts for data published between January 1, 2000, to August 31, 2014) to summarize the evidence along with its prospective implications.

[Photo: Dr. Janice M. Utley]

A total of 30 studies — 19 published in the United States; four in Canada; two each in China, Vietnam, and Spain; and one in Germany — were selected for inclusion, based on the following criteria: (i) outcome weight status; both physical activity and weight status; or solely physical activity if the goal was obesity prevention; and (ii) a range of 12- to 19-year-old cross-sectional study participants; a separate cross-sectional study analysis; or a longitudinal study follow-up.

[Photo: Dr. Olivia Affuso]

The researchers report, “Self-efficacy, parental physical activity support, perceived neighborhood support, social cohesion, and access to recreational facilities were associated with increased activity levels; neighborhood physical disorder and perceived lack of safety were associated with reduced physical activity levels. Overweight or obesity was associated with sugar-sweetened beverage intake and household availability thereof; reduced odds were reported with fruit and vegetable intake and household availability of these, daily breakfast, and family meal frequency.” The studies reviewed in this project suggest that theoretical models of obesity risks can be found at the individual, family, and social contextual levels.

[Photo: Dr. Andrew Rucks]

“Adolescent obesity remains a challenge in some subpopulation groups. Our study concluded that additional research is needed over the adolescent life course and across demographic groups to inform the design of targeted interventions for the unique needs of each age and subpopulation,” notes Dr. Utley.

“Adolescent Obesity in Contextual Settings: A Scoping Study of Multilevel and Hierarchical Examinations” was published in September in the journal Clinical Obesity.

Journal article: