Eating and food issues can have a significant impact on someone’s quality of life (QOL). “This is of particular relevance for the atypical eating disorders, called eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), thought to represent the majority of clinical presentations,” said Tracey D. Wade of the School of Psychology at Flinders University in South Australia, and lead author of a study examining the relationship between eating issues and QOL in women. “This body of research would suggest that the presence of an eating disorder is associated with impaired QOL, by comparison with healthy controls, the general population, primary care patients with medical disorders such as arthritis and hypertension, and people with other diagnoses of psychiatric illness,” said Wade, referring to the data collected from the Medical Outcome Studies (MOS) Short-Form Scale (SF-36). Wade added that although there is little research on women with EDNOS compared to women with anorexia or bulimia, the small pool of evidence for EDNOS shows that these women have lower QOL than healthy women. “Those girls with EDNOS had significantly higher levels of functional impairment, mental health service use, and emotional distress than those without eating disorders,” said Wade.
Few studies have looked at the long-term impact of eating issues on QOL, so Wade and her colleagues gathered data from a 9-year study of Australian women to fill the evidentiary void. The team examined five different surveys during that time period and evaluated them for depression, eating problems, social support and overall QOL. They found that the 23% of women surveyed who had an eating problem and low social support at baseline exhibited lower QOL and mental problems at the end of the study. Conversely, the women with the highest levels of social support at the beginning had fewer food problems and better QOL at the conclusion. Wade added, “Given the number of women affected, the seriousness of the consequences of disordered eating for QOL over a long period of time, and the suggestion that health professionals are poor at identifying eating problems, with just 4% of general practitioners use recommended guidelines in screening patients for disordered eating, the findings of this study suggest that public health interventions aimed at reducing the risk of disordered eating in young women are required.”
Wade, T. D., Wilksch, S. M., & Lee, C. (2011, November 7). A Longitudinal Investigation of the Impact of Disordered Eating on Young Women’s Quality of Life. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025956
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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