Obesity,Diets#Eating Disorders#Bullying#Fat Acceptance#Please Share
Female students who leave home to attend first-year university or college are significantly more likely to start binge eating than peers who stay home to attend school — a behaviour that puts them at risk for more serious eating disorders in the future, new research suggests.
A study of University of Alberta students found that females in their inaugural year were three times more likely to binge eat if they had left their parents' home to obtain post-secondary education.
Repeated bouts of eating large amounts of food at a single sitting can also pack on the pounds over time, setting the stage for obesity, diabetes and other health problems, says the study.
As well, female students who reported higher levels of dissatisfaction with their bodies had a three-fold greater risk of binge eating episodes, say the researchers, whose study is published in the October issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Lead researcher Erin Barker, who earned her PhD in developmental psychology at the Edmonton-based university, said young women who scored low on social adjustment also were more apt to binge eat.
Perceptions of academic performance did not appear to affect eating habits.
"That could mean lots of different things," Barker explained from Wisconsin's Beloit College, where she now works. "If you move away from home, your social networks are disrupted, your eating patterns are going to be changed if you're living in a residence situation. Your activity and exercise patterns are going to change.
"Bingeing can be seen as a coping mechanism if things aren't going well and [female students] don't have their established social network there to refer to or to help them cope," she said.
The study involved 101 female students at the University of Alberta, who completed a web-based daily checklist of health behaviours for a two-week period at some point during the first three months of the fall term.
"It was about a five-minute checklist every night and it included questions about alcohol use, sleeping, eating, socializing, exams — their daily lives," said Barker.
The study did not include male freshmen because binge eating among boys is typically associated with different risk factors than those affecting girls.
When it came to eating behaviours, she said students were asked such questions as: "Today, did you stuff yourself with food? Did you not eat around other people and then later eat a lot of food on your own? Did you eat so much food that you would have been embarrassed if other people saw you?"
Barker said other studies have shown that bingeing can lead in some people to the eating disorder bulimia nervosa, which involves gorging food, then purging it by vomiting or laxative use.
Repeated bouts of eating large amounts of food at a single sitting can also pack on the pounds over time, setting the stage for obesity, diabetes and other health problems, she said.
Often, parents assume that when a teenager leaves the nest for higher education, they are entering an exciting new phase of life marked by making friends and having fun, Barker said.
But that's not true for every teen, she said. "Keep in mind that there's all these social demands … that some people may be better able or less able to navigate and negotiate early on and those social problems, especially for young women, might put them at risk for negative health behaviours like eating disorders."