• thinness;
  • BMI;
  • lean body mass;
  • ethnicity;
  • cardiovascular risk


Objective: To examine health and psychosocial correlates of persistent thinness in black and white young adult women.

Research Methods and Procedures: 1830 females (n = 988 black, n = 842 white) who participated in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study were asked to indicate their current body size from a series of nine pictograms (1, emaciated to 9, obese). Persistent thinness was defined as having at least seven non-missing measurement points between ages 9 to 18 with a body size rating of <4 at all points. Generalized linear models were used to examine whether persistently thin women differed from comparison women on cardiovascular disease risk factors measured at age 18.5 and psychosocial variables measured at age 21.5. Prospective associations between psychological measures in childhood and persistent thinness through the course of adolescence were also examined.

Results: In the sample, 145 women (7.9%) met criteria for persistent thinness and 1685 women (92.1%) were classified as not persistently thin. Persistently thin women had a later age of menarche, fewer weight concerns, and healthier eating attitudes, were less likely to have had a child, came from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, and had significantly lower blood pressure and higher high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol than comparison women. Differences were not found on measures of depression or health services use. Girls with higher self-esteem in childhood were more likely to remain persistently thin throughout adolescence.

Discussion: Persistently thin women seem to be healthier on several indicators relative to comparison women, and race did not moderate these differences.