Online Program

Associations between obesity in youth, substance abuse and other health-risk behaviors: Findings from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ziyad Ben Taleb, MD, MPH, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Raed Bahelah, MPH&TM, Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, Department of Epidemiology, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Rehab Auf, M.Sc, MD, Epidemiology Department, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Karma McKelvey, PhD, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, San Francisco, CA

The prevalence of obesity have increased dramatically among adolescents in the past two decades; yet, less information exists on the association of obesity with health-risk behaviors which are often established during childhood and adolescence. This study examined the association of obesity with substance abuse and other health-risk behaviors among U.S. youth.


Self-reported height and weight, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs use, violence and bullying and other health risky behaviors were assessed in a nationally representative sample of students enrolled between grade 9 to 12 (N=13583) who participated in the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).


About two thirds of the sample were normal weight, 15.4% were overweight 16.9% were obese. Females were more likely to be obese than males (AOR=1.78; 95% CI=1.52, 2.09). Obesity was positively associated with tobacco use (AOR=1.63; 95% CI=1.18, 2.25), history of fighting in school (AOR=1.29; 95% CI=1.08, 1.53), being bullied at school (AOR=1.34; 95% CI=1.17, 1.54), prolonged TV watching (AOR=1.48; 95% CI=1.31, 1.66), and prolonged video games playing (AOR=1.33; 95% CI=1.16, 1.52). Obesity was negatively associated with marijuana use (AOR=.76; 95% CI=.63, .91), ecstasy use (AOR=.53; 95% CI=.39, .73) and being physically active (AOR=.59; 95% CI=.50, .70).


Obese youth are at risk of developing health compromising behaviors which may compound medical and social problems associated with excess weight. Understanding the relationship between substance use, other health risk behaviors and obesity is instrumental in designing obesity interventions for youth.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Assess the prevalence of obesity in the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey sample. Identify the association between obesity in youth and substance abuse. Evaluate the relationship between obesity and other health-risk behaviors.

Keyword(s): Obesity, Drug Abuse

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I'm a public health professional, and currently finishing a doctoral degree in Epidemiology. I have a special interest in researching substance abuse and its association with other health-risky behavior. Moreover, I have several publications in tobacco control field, and currently writing my dissertation about smoking cessation trials in developing countries.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.