Overweight girls are more likely to start having sex early, to have multiple partners during their teen years, and to have unprotected sex compared to thinner teens, a new study shows. The heavier the girl is, the worse the situation becomes.
According to MSNBC, South Carolina researchers found that obese girls were almost three times as likely as others to have had sex before age 13 and 30 percent more likely to have had sex with more than three partners during their teen years, according to the study presented this month at the annual meeting of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Girls who were overweight but not obese had a lower, but still significant, risk of starting sex early. Compared to thinner teens, they were 60 percent more likely to begin sex before age 13 and 30 percent were likely to have had sex with more than three partners. The study found that 6 percent of normal weight teens had sex before age 13, as compared with 11 percent of overweight teens and 15 percent of obese teens. And 39 percent of normal weight teens reported having sex with more than three partners as compared with 45 percent of overweight teens and 47 percent of obese teens.
What’s probably most horrifying is that overweight girls are less likely to use condoms or other methods of birth control than thinner girls – so they’re having more sex, and more unprotected sex.
Why does this happen? Overweight girls hit puberty at an earlier age. “They develop sooner,” explained Margaret Villers, an assistant professor at teh Medical University of South Carolina, and the study’s lead author. “They look like women sooner. And maybe that’s why they are more likely to be pressured by their boyfriends to have sex at a younger age.”
It might also have to do with body image and self-esteem. Heavy girls are more susceptible to being pressured to have sex because it may make them feel attractive, and they may be afraid to stop their partners and ask them to use a condom. “It’s hard to say ‘no,’ if you feel badly about yourself and someone is validating you, saying ‘you’re attractive, and I want to have sex with you,’” Villers said.
Parents need to talk with their teenage girls – obese or not – about sex and its complications, just as they need to help guide their kids to exercise and eat healthy foods. It can be a difficult subject because parents don’t want to worsen girls’ body images, but communication is key.