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J Med Internet Res. 2012 Oct 25;14(5):e148. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2023.

Disordered eating in a digital age: eating behaviors, health, and quality of life in users of websites with pro-eating disorder content.

Author information

  • 1The Craig Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine at The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, United States. peeblesr@email.chop.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Much concern has been raised over pro-eating disorder (pro-ED) website communities, but little quantitative research has been conducted on these websites and their users.

OBJECTIVE:

To examine associations between levels of pro-ED website usage, disordered eating behaviors, and quality of life.

METHODS:

We conducted a cross-sectional, Internet-based survey of adult pro-ED website users. Main outcomes were Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and Eating Disorder Quality of Life (EDQOL) scores.

RESULTS:

We included responses from 1291 participants; 1254 (97.13%) participants were female. Participants had an average age of 22.0 years and a mean body mass index of 22.1 kg/m(2); 24.83% (296/1192) were underweight; 20.89% (249/1192) were overweight or obese. Over 70% of participants had purged, binged, or used laxatives to control their weight; only 12.91% (163/1263) were in treatment. Mean EDE-Q scores were above the 90th percentile and mean EDQOL scores were in the severely impaired range. When compared with moderate and light usage, heavy pro-ED website usage was associated with higher EDE-Q global (4.89 vs 4.56 for medium and 4.0 for light usage, P < .001) and EDQOL total scores (1.64 vs 1.45 for medium and 1.25 for light usage, P < .001), and more extreme weight loss behaviors and harmful post-website usage activities. In a multivariate model, the level of pro-ED website usage remained a significant predictor of EDE-Q scores.

CONCLUSIONS:

Pro-ED website visitors reported many disordered eating behaviors, although few had been treated. Heavy users reported poorer quality of life and more disordered eating behaviors.

PMID:
23099628
PMCID:
PMC3510745
DOI:
10.2196/jmir.2023
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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