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Surprising Science

Obese Teens Use Contraception Less Over Self-Esteem Issues

Researchers have found young women are less likely to use contraception.

A recent study out of the University of Michigan has found that obese teens are less likely to use contraceptives than their normal-weight peers. What’s more, if they did use contraceptives, they were less likely to use it consistently.


The study consisted of 900 women between the ages of 18 to 19 years in the state of Michigan. The researchers sought to explore the relationship between weight and sexual behavior. They used weekly journal surveys that inquired into the teens’ sexual and contraceptive habits. In an effort to continue to reduce the rates of teen pregnancy, lead author of the study, Tammy Chang, an assistant professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School, believes it’s important to understand what kinds of kids are most at risk.

“Reducing adolescent pregnancy is a national public health priority and we need to understand which adolescents are at higher risk of pregnancy. Our findings suggest that obesity may be an important factor associated with adolescent women’s sexual behavior.”

The researchers found that the obese girls did not differ much from the rest of their peers in number of partners, frequency of sex, or length of relationships. Given this information, the researchers can only suggest why there’s such a difference in use of contraception. Past studies have shown obese women have lower self-esteem, which may hinder preparations for sexual encounters. There may also be certain socio-economic factors that play into this disparity.

Chang said:

“By understanding the barriers that put certain groups of teens at higher risk of unintended pregnancies, clinicians and researchers can tailor interventions to empower adolescents to make healthier sexual choices.”

Read more at UofM Health.

Photo Credit: JEKESAI NJIKIZANA / Getty


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