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Adolescent girls in Western countries are well known to have a greater tendency to be underweight than their male counterparts, as reflected by eating disorders in the most severe cases.  Being underweight can increase the risk of certain illnesses, or can be directly detrimental to health depending on the degree to which a person is underweight.

Data on the Body Mass Index of adolescents up to 2008 indicates that the proportions of underweight girls of this age have reached high levels in some Eastern European countries. Belarus and Bulgaria saw the proportion of underweight girls increase to around 23% of adolescents by 2008. Throughout this period adolescent boys had much lower proportions being underweight than girls. In other UNECE countries for which data is available, the proportion of underweight females is generally lower than Belarus and Bulgaria, as can be seen on the Chart. The USA has similar proportions of underweight girls and boys, whilst Kyrgyzstan has more underweight boys than girls.

Note: Adolescents are defined as 15-19 years old. Data for Belarus is for the age-group 16-19.

Source: UNECE Statistical Database.


Percentage of Adolescent Girls and Boys who are Underweight, 2000 (or nearest available year) and 2008