A longitudinal investigation of the impact of disordered eating on young women's quality of life
Wade, Tracey Diane
Wilksch, Simon Mark
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OBJECTIVE: The extent to which subclinical levels of disordered eating affect quality of life (QOL) was assessed. METHOD: Four waves of self-report data from Survey 2 (S2) to 5 (S5) of a national longitudinal survey of young Australian women (N = 9,688) were used to assess the impact of any level of disordered eating at S2 on QOL over the following 9 years, and to evaluate any moderating effects of social support and of depression. RESULTS: At baseline, 23% of the women exhibited some level of disordered eating, and they scored significantly lower on both the physical and the mental component scores of the SF-36 at every survey; differences in mental health were still clinically meaningful at S5. Social support and depressive symptoms each acted as a moderator of the mental component scores. Women with both disordered eating and low social support, or disordered eating and depression, had the worst initial scores; although they improved the most over time, they still had the lowest scores at S5. Higher social support at baseline resulted in women with disordered eating being largely indistinguishable from women without disordered eating who had low social support. Lower levels of depression resulted in women with disordered eating having a significantly better QOL than women with high levels of depression, regardless of eating status. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to examine the long-term impact of subclinical levels of disordered eating on QOL, and it suggests that even apparently minor levels of symptomatology are associated with significant and far-reaching deficits in well-being.