Women With Eating Disorders At Higher Risk For Risky Drinking

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Eating disorders contribute to countless symptoms and health risks, but often the way eating disorders influence risky behaviors and other mental health issues is overlooked or forgotten. A new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders makes this clear.

According to the report from researchers at the University of Helsinki, women with eating disorders are significantly more likely to exhibit risky drinking behaviors compared to their healthy peers.

For the study, Linda Mustelin, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues used a large population-based twin sample to evaluate how drinking behaviors of women with eating disorders differ from the behaviors of the average population.

The team used data collected by a Finnish cohort, which included information from 182 women diagnosed with a lifetime eating disorder between 1975 and 1979. Their drinking and intoxication habits were evaluated at three points in their lives – at the ages 16, 24, and 34-years-old.

Using this data, the team saw that risky drinking behaviors began early for women with eating disorder. At the age of 16, these women were more likely to report being severely intoxicated when they last drank (25% compared to 16%). At 24 and 34-years-old, they were more likely to report frequent intoxication and more alcohol-related problems than their unaffected peers.

Even those who recovered from their eating disorder between 24 and 34-years-old continued to report more alcohol-related problems in their lives.

“Women with eating disorders scored higher than their unaffected peers on scales measuring alcohol dependence, alcohol-related problems, and intoxication,” the authors conclude. “These differences persisted from mid-adolescence into young adulthood.”

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