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Eat Behav. 2017 Jan;24:81-88. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.12.003. Epub 2016 Dec 21.

Eating disorder symptoms among undergraduate and graduate students at 12 U.S. colleges and universities.

Author information

  • 1Child Health Evaluation and Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School, United States.
  • 2Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, United States. Electronic address: kendrins@umich.edu.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

We sought to estimate the prevalence of eating disorder symptoms in a large sample of U.S. college students and variations therein across student characteristics.

METHODS:

Participants were 9713 students from 12 colleges and universities participating in the Healthy Bodies Study. We used gender-stratified logistic regression to estimate bivariate correlates of elevated eating disorder symptoms, past-month objective binge eating, and past-month compensatory behaviors across student characteristics including age, degree-level, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, first-generation status, citizenship, academic and extracurricular characteristics, and weight status. Eating disorder outcomes were based on the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire.

RESULTS:

We observed higher prevalence of objective binge eating among females relative to males (49% versus 30%, p<0.001), but similar prevalence of compensatory behaviors (31% versus 29%). Weight status was the most consistent predictor of eating disorder risk with significantly more symptoms seen among individuals with overweight and obesity. When compared to individuals with a healthy weight, those with overweight had greater eating disorder risk (males OR=3.5; females OR=2.0), binge eating (males OR=2.1; females OR=1.9), and use of compensatory behaviors (males OR=1.5; females OR=1.3).

CONCLUSIONS:

This study suggests smaller gender difference in prevalence of eating disorder symptoms than previously reported and identifies students with overweight/obesity as salient targets for campus-based eating disorder screening and early intervention efforts.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescent; College health; Disordered eating; Eating disorders; Higher education; Young adult

PMID:
28040637
DOI:
10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.12.003
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