Association of Obesity, Suicide Behaviors, and Psychosocial Wellness Among Adolescents in the United States

Eriko Iwatate, Folefac D. Atem, Eric C. Jones, Jennifer Hughes, Takeshi Yokoo, Sarah E. Messiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Adolescents with obesity are more likely to exhibit suicide behaviors, but this association may be confounded by psychosocial stigma related to obesity. We examined whether the obesity is independently associated with suicide behaviors among United States adolescents, after adjusting for the psychosocial factors. Methods: We analyzed data from 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (N = 13,871 United States adolescents) on recent (past year) suicide behavior (attempt, ideation, and plan); demographics (age, sex, and race/ethnicity); and psychosocial factors (feeling sad/hopeless, alcohol and illegal drug use, being bullied, and sexually abused). Participants were classified as having obesity (Y/N) per standardized percentiles. Logistic regression was employed to examine the association between obesity and suicide attempt, ideation, and plan, while adjusting for psychosocial covariates. Results: The prevalence of suicide attempt, ideation, and plan was 8.90%, 18.75%, and 15.71%, respectively. Obesity prevalence was 15.5%. The odds of suicide attempt, ideation, and plan were 1.65 (1.30–2.11), 1.31 (0.89–1.61), and 1.27 (1.02–1.57), respectively, among those with obesity versus without obesity. Discussion: Obesity is significantly associated with a suicide attempt, ideation, and plan among United States adolescents, even after adjusting for confounding psychosocial factors. Further research on the temporality and causality of this association is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Adolescents
  • Obesity
  • Suicide attempt
  • Suicide ideation
  • Suicide plan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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