Black female adolescents who experienced depression and anxiety as a result of a poor body image were more likely to binge eat, which placed them at greater risk for suicide, according to new data published in Prevention Science.
"Eating problems in general can be a signal for a larger problem and should not be taken lightly," study researcher Rashelle J. Musci, PhD, told Psychiatric Annals. "In turn, I think that developing a prevention program aimed at these tangible eating behaviors may have impacts beyond reducing problem eating behaviors, and may, perhaps, reduce the risk for suicide."
Rashelle J. Musci
Musci and colleagues from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, studied the predictors of binge-eating behaviors and suicide outcomes in 313 black girls aged 6 to 17 years from Baltimore. The participants were followed for 11 years, and the researchers relied on teacher, parent and child interviews to examine self-perceptions of body appearance, internalizing symptoms of depression and anxiety, eating behaviors and suicide attempts.
Study participants who were dissatisfied with their physical appearance were at the greatest risk for developing symptoms of depression and anxiety (P<.01). Internalizing symptoms as a result of a poor body image, in turn, predicted binge-eating behaviors (P<.05). Those who reported binge-eating behaviors were at a significantly increased risk for suicide (OR=1.64; P<.05).
"The relationships found in the study offer prevention scientists a unique opportunity to target individuals at high risk of psychiatric problems by intervening in the case of binge-eating problems," the researchers wrote. "Our results also support the importance of developing prevention programs that are culturally relevant to individuals."
Disclosure: Musci reports no relevant financial disclosures.