Study Shows How Common Disordered Eating Is Abroad
It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, 30 million people will experience a significant eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. However, it isn’t just an American issue. Eating disorders are a serious issue afflicting hundreds of millions around the world.
A recent study from Australia helps reinforce that fact.
The study, from researchers at The University of Queensland, Stockholm University, and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, suggests that as much as a third of all young women in Australia struggle with issues relating to binge or overeating. Socially disadvantaged women were even more likely to experience disordered eating.
According to the findings, approximately four percent of women between the ages of 18 and 23 reported clinical symptoms of bulimia nervosa, however the rates of milder eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors were much higher.
Professor Gita Mishra, from The University of Queensland’s School of Public Health said up to 17 percent of women reported episodes of overeating, 16 percent reported binge eating, and 10 percent reported using compensatory behaviors such as vomiting or fasting to control weight.
“The results highlight the large burden of both transient and persistent milder and undiagnosed forms of disordered and overeating in this age group,” Professor Mishra said.
For the study, the researchers examined data collected from over 6,800 participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) and built upon earlier studies into social and early life causes for eating disorders from the Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS) in Sweden.
Professor Ilona Koupil from CHESS says their studies found a significantly increased risk of binge eating or overeating among socially disadvantaged women.
“There was also increased risk among young women who reported smoking and binge drinking, suggesting a possible overlap between substance abuse and eating disorders,” Professor Koupil said.
Based on the findings published in Public Health Nutrition, the researchers say social patterns could be a potential tool for identifying those at the highest risk for eating disorders for early intervention.
“We were intrigued to see a higher risk of binge eating and bulimia nervosa among women of European origin and in those who had been overweight or obese in childhood,” Professor Koupil said.
“We hope our results prompt further efforts to monitor prevalence of these common disorders among young women in Australia and overseas.”