Attitudes And Health Behaviours Of Young Adolescent Omnivores And Vegetarians
This Canadian study sought to identify the attitudes, health-related behavior, “social adjustment,” and perceptions of personal health among both vegetarian and omnivorous teenagers, with the goal of determining specific characteristics related to vegetarianism.
Participants were 630 Grade 9 students, ages 13–15 years, in seven schools in Ontario, Canada. Vegetarian status was determined using a 19-item food inventory. The vegetarian group included lacto, ovo and/or lacto–ovo and semi-vegetarians. Omnivores consumed red meat at least monthly. Social adjustment factors included school misbehaviour, low academic performance, authority-defying risks and unsafe/illegal risks. Logistic regression estimated the relationship of characteristics to vegetarian status. The sample comprised 25 vegetarians (4%) and 605 omnivores.
Analyses focused mainly on females; 22 vegetarians and 315 omnivores. Dieting behaviours (current, frequent and past year), alcohol use, poorer social adjustment and poorer self-rated health were positively related to vegetarian eating (p = .05). Among females (using logistic regression), past year dieting (OR 9.88; 95% CI 2.19–44.47) and alcohol use (OR 2.91; 95% CI 1.02–8.32) predominated in the presence of attitudes that personal health and animal rights are very important. The model predicted 79.9% of cases.
Teenage vegetarians were distinctive in health behaviours. The independent, positive association of alcohol use with vegetarian eating is a unique and concerning finding. Dieting behaviours were strongly, independently and positively linked to female vegetarian eating. Further studies with a greater range of behaviours would be useful to more fully characterize teenage vegetarians and explore subgroups.