New Student Health Study: Teens, Eating Problems, and Anxiety

According to research published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, teens are dealing with eating problems at a much higher rate than may have previously been suspected. The studies involved 372 students between the ages of 15 and 17, with 57% being girls and 43% being boys. The health studies were done a year apart, involving the same students in each study.

The results showed:

  • 18% of the participating students admitted to having eating problems in the first or second survey.
  • 5% admitted to eating problems in both studies.
  • Students who reported ongoing eating problems were more likely to also report multiple health complaints and psychological problems.
  • Those with anxiety earlier in adolescence were 20x more likely to have ongoing eating problems.
  • Teens dissatisfied with their appearance had recurring eating problems, reporting anxiety earlier in adolescence.
  • 66 students reported eating problems: 23 reporting those problems only in the first survey, 24 only reporting them in the second survey, 19 reporting them in both surveys.
  • Teens with previous problems with anxiety were much more likely to suffer sustained eating problems.
  • Teens with no previous anxiety issues only experienced temporary eating problems and dissatisfaction with their appearance.
  • Girls were 2x more likely to report eating problems on one occasion than boys.
  • Girls were 5x more likely to have ongoing eating problems.
  • 63 percent of the students who reported eating problems were normal weight, compared with 79 percent of the students who didn’t report any eating problems.
  • 37 percent were overweight and none were underweight, compared with 20 percent and 1 percent of the students without problems.

"The researchers also found higher levels of psychological problems and health complaints in students who only reported eating problems in one of the two surveys."

“Our study backs up previous research that shows that eating problems often fluctuate in children of this age and in 50 to 60 percent of cases last about one to two years” says Lea Hautala. “However in ten per cent of cases their eating problems can persist into adulthood.

“Although almost a fifth of the students who took part in our study reported eating problems at some point, these problems clearly sorted themselves out in the majority of cases. However, one in twenty students continued to report problems.

“We believe that our results point to the need for schools to screen adolescents with psychological problems or multiple health complaints for eating problems, as these are the two key predictive factors that emerged from our study.”

Journal of Advanced Nursing
Lea Hautala from the Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic at the University of Turku, Finland

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Arielle said...

It just...makes me so sad. As always, I love the information you provide on your blog...I just heave a big sigh and wish the world were a happier place for the young people (and for all people really). I guess it is up to us to change the world, huh?

Much love,

MrsMenopausal said...

Thanks, Arielle. I know exactly what you mean. It's sad and scary how many children are affected by disordered relationships with food, self-esteem, and body image.
I wish it were quickly and easily remedied. Awareness is important and it seems that public awareness of EDs and their effect on our youth is growing.
I agree. We all have to help bring about change.
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I always love hearing from you.