Community Surveys Show Increase in Disordered Eating in South Australia

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2008 Volume 19, Number 2
©2008 Gürze Books

According to researchers, disordered eating is definitely increasing in South Australia. The researchers recently reported the results of two independent, single-stage, interview-based surveys conducted a decade apart that included individuals from both metropolitan and rural areas (PLOs ONE 2008; 3:2: e 1541. Published online February 6, 2008).

As Dr. Phillipa P. Jay and colleagues recently reported, general public health interviews conducted in 1995 and 2005 included a range of health-related and demographic questions, including present height and weight. Questions related to disordered eating that were included in the second survey were modeled on related questions used in the Eating Disorder Examination.

Disordered eating patterns

Between 1995 and 2005, there was a greater than twofold increase in the point prevalence of binge eating, purging (defined as self-induced vomiting and/or laxative or diuretic misuse), and strict dieting or fasting for weight or shape control in men and women. The most commonly increased eating disorder diagnoses in 2005 were binge eating disorder or eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS).

Just as in other community surveys, cases of anorexia nervosa (AN) appeared to be rare, and no potential cases were detected in this survey. However, five participants with body mass indexes (BMIs) below 18 kg/m2 reported extreme weight and shape concerns. These women also denied using any extreme weight control behaviors or attempts to lose weight. Women 45 to 64 years of age were more likely to be “food-occupied”; that is, they were more likely to binge eat, to feel guilty after eating, and to believe that food controlled their lives than were younger women.

Twenty-four participants had bulimia nervosa (BN) and 47 had binge eating disorder, or BED (67% were female). Five individuals had BMIs less than 17.5 mg/kg2 and moderate or greater concerns about weight and shape. None of these individuals reported. Participants were 2.4 times more likely to report binge eating in 2005 than in 1995. Although the study was not designed to explain the increase, the authors speculate that the rising tide of public concern over an increase in weight in the general population of Australia may have contributed to use of weight control behaviors and to binge eating as a consequence of dietary restriction.

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