Overweight/obesity is a major public health problem in adolescence. The prevalence of overweight/obesity is even higher in minority populations. Understanding differences in key variables that may impact overweight/obesity is important for designing culturally sensitive interventions to address and prevent this problem. Cognitive theory guided the study and contends that how individuals think affects how they feel and how they behave.
The sample was comprised of 779 adolescents at 11 high schools in the Southwest United States who were participating in a randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of the COPE Healthy Lifestyles TEEN program on their physical, mental health and academic outcomes.
Baseline measures obtained included BMI along with valid and reliable scales, acculturation, perceived difficulty in leading a healthy lifestyle, self-concept, depression and anxiety.
The mean age of respondents was 14.8 years with approximately 48% male and 52% female. Sixty-seven percent of the sample was Hispanic. Independent sample t-tests identified several significant differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic teens. Beck Self-concept t-scores were significantly lower in Hispanic teens (p=.001). All four acculturation subscales were significantly different, including assimilation (p=.000), separation (p=.000), integration (p=.000), and marginalization (p=.011). Hispanic teens had significantly higher BMI percentiles (p=.003). Hispanic teens also perceived it was more difficult to live a healthy lifestyle (p=.046). There were no significant differences on their steps per day, self-reported healthy lifestyle behaviors, anxiety or depression.
Adolescence is an important time to influence healthy lifestyle beliefs and behaviors. Beliefs regarding living a healthy lifestyle and self-concept should be targeted in interventions to enhance healthy lifestyle behaviors in Hispanic teens in order to prevent and treat obesity.