Health profiles of overweight and obese youth attending general practice

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Abstract

Background

Literature suggests that overweight and obese young people use healthcare services more often, but this awaits confirmation in primary care.

Objective

To identify health profiles of underweight, overweight and obese young people attending general practice and compare them to normal-weight youth and also to explore the weight-related health risks of eating and exercise behaviour in the four different weight categories.

Methods

This study used a cross-sectional design with baseline data from a trial including 683 young people (14–24 years of age) presenting to general practice. Through computer-assisted telephone interviews data were obtained on number and type of health complaints and consultations, emotional distress, health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and eating and exercise behaviour.

Results

General practitioners (GPs) were consulted more often by overweight (incidence rate ratio (IRR): 1.28, 95% CI (1.04 to 1.57)) and obese youth (IRR: 1.54, 95% CI (1.21 to 1.97), but not for different health problems compared with normal-weight youth. The reason for presentation was seldom a weight issue. Obese youth reported lower physical HRQoL. Obese and underweight youth were less likely to be satisfied with their eating behaviour than their normal-weight peers. Exercise levels were low in the entire cohort.

Conclusions

Our study highlights the need for effective weight management given that overweight and obese youth consult their GP more often. Since young people do not present with weight issues, it becomes important for GPs to find ways to initiate the discussion about weight, healthy eating and exercise with youth.

Trial registration number

ISRCTN16059206.

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