Teenage anxiety may link to greater risk of developing eating disorders – study

Teenage girls suffering from clinical anxiety could be at greater risk of developing eating disorders, according to a new study.

Data collected from girls between the ages of 13 and 18 showed a link between anxiety disorder and not eating for an entire day, which could lead to eating disorders such as anorexia, according to the study.

Researchers at the University of Bristol and University College London said their findings could help identify individuals at risk of eating disorders and help prevent them from happening.

The study, published in European Eating Disorders Review, looked at a sample of 2,406 teenage girls from Bristol and found the risk of regular fasting in girls who met criteria for an anxiety disorder two years earlier was twice that of girls who did not have an anxiety disorder.

Fasting was predictive of anorexia nervosa development, and supported the possibility that anxiety increases risk of early symptoms of eating disorder syndromes, the study said.

Data for the research came from Bristol Children of the 90s, a longitudinal study based at the University of Bristol.

It is estimated that up to 1.5 million people in the UK have some kind of eating disorder, though there is not enough research to reveal how common it actually is.

Dr Caitlin Lloyd, lead author of the new study, said: “Increasing our understanding of disordered eating behaviours and eating disorders is a necessary step in improving outcomes of prevention efforts.

“This is particularly important given the high burden of eating disorders, and their associated risks, with anorexia having one of the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric disorders.”

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat Eating Disorders, said: “This study should support vital early intervention for eating disorders, and long term we hope this research could play a role in helping to prevent these serious illnesses from developing in the first place.

“We also need more longitudinal studies like this to be funded, as there is still a lot more left to learn about how eating disorders develop.”

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