BMI, self-esteem, and weight contentment from adolescence to young adulthood and women’s risk for sexually transmitted disease


Merten, Michael & Williams, Amanda (2014). BMI, self-esteem, and weight contentment from adolescence to young adulthood and women's risk for sexually transmitted disease. Sexual Health. vol. 11 (6) pp. 561-567


Background: Women's risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were examined in terms of adolescent and young adult weight status, self-esteem trajectories, and weight contentment were examined using two waves of a nationally representative dataset. Methods: Using Waves 1 and 3 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, body mass index (BMI), self-esteem, and weight contentment were examined during adolescence and young adulthood to assess the likelihood of STDs among 4,000 young adult single women. Results: BMI continuity or change did not predict STDs independent of self-esteem or weight contentment. High self-esteem in adolescence, whether remaining high or decreasing in young adulthood, significantly reduced women's risk for STDs. Any change in weight contentment from adolescence to young adulthood increased women's risk for STDs. Regardless of other variables, Black women were more likely to have an STD. Conclusions: Results suggest women's self-perception is important in reducing sexual risk; specifically, patterns of self-esteem, BMI, and weight contentment across developmental periods should be a critical focus of research and practice related to adolescent and young adult sexual health. Sexual health, particularly among women and African Americans, is a public health priority. There are many known benefits to fostering self-esteem during adolescence and findings from this study add STD prevention among young women to this list. Results emphasize needed prevention during adolescence addressing self-perspective and self-esteem for long-term sexual well-being.


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Journal Article

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Sexual Health


Merten, Michael
Williams, Amanda

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