Adolescent Binge-Eating Disorder Linked To Adult Health Issues

A new study links binge-eating and bulimia disorders in youth to serious health issues in adulthood.

In a new study published in Cambridge University Press’ journal Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Harvard Medical School researchers working with the World Health Organization (WHO) have linked binge-eating disorder and bulimia nervosa in adolescent patients with mental and physical health issues that continue into adulthood.

Researchers, including the team from Harvard Medical School, surveyed 23,000 adults across 12 different countries about binge-eating disorder and bulimia nervosa, certain aspects of their mental and physical health, and information about their lives such as level of education, marriage status, employment status, and employment disability status.

Binge-eating disorder was proven to be twice as common as bulimia in this survey, which further supports the American Psychiatric Association’s recent declaration of the disorder as it’s own diagnosis and no longer just a component of bulimia.

Previously, it was believed that binge-eating disorder had less negative effects on patients’ ability to carry out day to day activities after diagnosis. However, this study seems to suggest the opposite; both binge-eating disorder and bulimia affect a patient’s inability to complete tasks and sustain normal relationships.

The study also found that binge-eating disorder and bulimia, both of which can present beginning symptoms during adolescence, can be the cause of serious mental health disorders like depression and anxiety in adult years. Physical issues, like diabetes, and muscle and bone issues, also developed later in life in those patients surveyed.

Dr. Ronald Kessler, senior author of the study and professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School, said in a press release:

“Binge-eating disorder has been largely ignored by health care providers, but it has a tremendous cost to the physical and psychological well-being of people with the disorder. When all of the cases of the disorder are taken together, the elevated levels of depression, suicide and lost days at work represent substantial costs to society.”

Researchers involved in the study agree that early detection and increased education about binge-eating disorder and bulimia during adolescence are the keys to preventing these harmful effects later in life.