Diabetes and disordered eating behaviours in a community-based sample of Australian adolescents

Pursey, Kirrilly M.; Hay, Phillipa; Bussey, Kay; Trompeter, Nora; Lonergan, Alexandra; Pike, Kathleen M.; Mond, Jonathon; Mitchison, Deborah

People with diabetes have been shown to be at risk for disordered eating compared to their non-diabetic peers. However, the majority of studies have been conducted in relatively small samples drawn from clinical diabetes settings or registries. Community-based samples are required to better understand disordered eating behaviours in this population. In a large community-based population sample of Australian adolescents, this study aimed to (1) investigate disordered eating behaviours in adolescents reporting a diagnosis of diabetes compared to their non-diabetic peers and (2) test associations between disordered eating behaviours and insulin restriction.

Secondary school students (n = 4854; mean (SD) age 14.4 (1.6) years; 47% boys) completed an online survey, including self-reported presence of diabetes, demographics, weight status, substance use, insulin restriction and disordered eating behaviours. Clinically meaningful cut-offs for disordered eating behaviours were generated for analysis.

Disordered eating behaviours, specifically self-induced vomiting (diabetes 19.2%, no diabetes 3.3%; p <  0.001), laxative use (diabetes 15.4%, no diabetes 2.1%; p <  0.001), use of cigarettes (diabetes 26.9%, no diabetes 4.3%; p <  0.001) and other drugs (diabetes 28.9%, no diabetes 4.0%; p <  0.001), cleanse/detox (diabetes 30.8%, no diabetes 10.5%; p <  0.001) and extreme weight loss diets (diabetes 13.5%, no diabetes 4.7%; p <  0.003) were higher in those reporting a diagnosis of diabetes. In addition, 17% of those with diabetes reported frequent insulin restriction (≥ once per week), and insulin restriction was associated with more frequent disordered eating behaviours.

There was a high rate of disordered eating behaviours in adolescents with diabetes compared to their peers without diabetes. The findings of this study may have the potential to inform future health promotion, prevention, and early intervention approaches for those with comorbid diabetes and disordered eating behaviours. Future longitudinal studies are required to evaluate disordered eating behaviours in those with diabetes over time in community-based samples.

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Also Published In

Journal of Eating Disorders

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Published Here
December 20, 2022


Disordered eating behaviours, Diabetes, Eating disorders, Adolescence