New Study Examines Quality of Life in Women with Eating Disorders

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 John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Bethany


    November 14th, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    How can you have any quality of life as someone who suffers with an eating disorder? These are people who spend most of their time being ashamed of who they are and trying to hide from everyone. They retreat until a lot of times it is too late to intervene and help. I know that I am so lucky to not have experienced this but there are many many others who deal with this kind of self hatred and abuse on a daily basis. So the quality of life for them has to be pretty low.

  • Haileigh


    November 15th, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    This is a screaming indictment of the amount of education that the public is given regarding eating disorders and that we need to get more information out there to help those dealing with this in their lives. We have preconceived notions about what these men and women feel, yet little to nothing is done to rectify that.

  • RN


    November 15th, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Eating disorders are nothing short of any other disorder and I don;t think there is any other disorder that has affected so many people today..And especially so when we are talking about young women..You are not giving the right amount and kind of nutrition to your body,it is bound to have an effect on your health and thereby everything related to you!

  • blake


    November 15th, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Would also like to see a study that examines the same thing but in how it could impact a male with the same eating disorder and if they fare any differently

  • Jaclyn


    November 18th, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Anyone with an Eating disorter has an extremely low quality of life if they have been anorexic/bulimic/other ED for a long time. It toke away my childhood and now some of my teen years and still is.

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