Among adolescents and young adults, binge eating was associated with the onset of high depressive symptoms and obesity, and both binge eating and overeating predicted initiating marijuana and other drug use, researchers reported.
“Physicians and parents should be aware that overeating and binge eating is common among older adolescents and that these behaviors put them at risk for other problems in the future,” study researcher Kendrin R. Sonneville, ScD, RD, of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told Psychiatric Annals. “It may seem that overeating and binge eating would only be a concern for individuals who are obese, but this study shows that these behaviors are problematic for all kids.”
Kendrin R. Sonneville
Sonneville and colleagues examined the association between binge eating, overeating and adverse outcomes in 16,882 males and females who were aged 9 to 15 years when they enrolled in the Growing Up Today Study in 1996. Binge eating, overeating, weight status (BMI), binge drinking, drug use and depressive symptoms were all assessed using questionnaires.
Among those aged 16 to 24 years, binge eating was more common among females (2.3% to 3.1%) than males (0.3% to 1%). Binge eating — not overeating — was associated with overweight/obesity (OR=1.73; 95% CI, 1.11-2.69) and the onset of high depressive symptoms (OR=2.19; 95% CI, 1.4-3.45). Binge eating (OR=1.85; 95% CI, 1.27-2.67) and overeating (OR=2.67; 95% CI, 1.68-4.23) predicted initiating marijuana use, and both binge eating (OR=1.59; 95% CI, 1.08-2.33) and overeating (OR=1.89; 95% CI, 1.18-3.02) predicted other drug use, as well.
Neither binge eating nor overeating was associated with initiating binge drinking frequently.
Sonneville said based on the results of this study alone, the mechanisms behind binge eating/overeating and adverse outcomes are unclear.
“Previous research suggests that feelings of shame and guilt related to binge eating could negatively impact mood and may lead attempts to regulate affect through substance use,” she said. “The fact that overeating — and not just binge eating — predicted the onset of marijuana and other drug use was unexpected and warrants further research.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.