Eating disorders impact on health unveiled in study

Eating disorders and multimorbidity in the English population.


A recent UK study found a strong link between eating disorders and multiple health problems, showing that people with these disorders face more health risks. The research by Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Cambridge’s Biomedical Research Centre delves into how eating disorders affect physical health and related issues.

In a study of 7,403 UK adults, researchers asked about various health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, eye, migraines, digestive problems, and heart issues. They also considered factors like alcohol dependence, insomnia, smoking, stress, obesity, and underweight.

The study revealed that 6.4% of respondents showed signs of possible eating disorders. Those in this group were 2.11 times more likely to have two or more health issues simultaneously, which is called ‘physical multimorbidity.

An eating disorder is when someone has an unhealthy relationship with food that disrupts their daily life. About 3.4 million people in the UK may have an eating disorder.

Anxiety was the most critical factor in the connection between eating disorders and multiple health problems. Insomnia, stress, and depression also played a significant role.

Other studies have shown that having multiple health problems, known as ‘multimorbidity,’ strains healthcare services and costs a lot. It affects about 42.4% of people worldwide.

Lead author Lee Smith, Professor of Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said, “We believe this is the first study to investigate the association between eating disorder symptoms, or possible eating disorder, and physical multimorbidity, and also the first to quantify how a variety of influencing factors may explain this association.”

This research shows how mental and physical health are closely connected. Eating disorders impact both emotional and physical well-being. To help people with these disorders, it’s essential to understand the factors that link them.

These findings are essential for public health. We must dig deeper to understand why eating disorders and multiple health issues are connected. In the future, this research might help us develop ways to reduce health problems in people with eating disorders by addressing these factors.

Understanding how eating disorders affect both mental and physical health is crucial. The study showed that anxiety, insomnia, stress, and depression play significant roles in the connection between eating disorders and multiple health issues. 

This research has important implications for public health, highlighting the need to investigate further to find ways to reduce health problems in people with eating disorders. Recognizing that eating disorders have far-reaching consequences is essential for developing effective interventions.

Journal reference:

  1. Smith, L., López Sánchez, G.F., Fernandez-Egea, E. et al. Eating disorders and physical multimorbidity in the English general population. Eating and Weight Disorder. DOI:10.1007/s40519-023-01600-0.


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