Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Eating Disorders Common Among College Students But Only Few Seek Treatment

Being young and carefree is fun but it also usually means having to deal with many personal issues, such as weight. Really, has anyone gone through their entire teenage years without thinking (probably obsessing) about their body?

The truth is, most (if not all) of us have been extremely conscious about our weight. But when you’re young, the weight issue is exacerbated by the desire to belong to certain groups, to be appreciated, and to feel more confident. Hence, diets tend to seem like the only solution for people who want to maintain a healthy weight.

According to an October 2012 University of Michigan campus survey on attitudes and behavior pertaining to eating, students diet regularly, dislike their bodies, fear gaining weight and seldom seek help for eating disorders.

Specifically, 27.8 percent of female undergraduates, 11.8 percent of male undergraduates, 21.5 percent of female graduate students, and 10.3 percent of male graduate students on campus were found to have eating disorders. Twenty percent of U of M women feel that thoughts and fears about food and weight dominate their lives. Among women who screen positive for an eating disorder, a quarter also screen positive for depression, and almost half for anxiety.

The survey also revealed 82 percent of women and 96 percent of men who are struggling with an eating disorder have not received treatment in the past year.

“Dieting is a key factor in the pathogenesis of all the eating disorders including Binge Eating Disorder, so you can see the vicious circle that quickly develops. So the data on binge eating gathered by U-SHAPE has great value,” Judith Banker, founder and executive director of the Center for Eating Disorders in Ann Arbor, said in a university news release.

Campus leaders say the information provided through the study will be valuable in helping further shape programming around disordered eating and body image.

“Learning about what experiences students have before college and what interactions students have during college shapes our work to create student environments that affirm wellness,” said Malinda Matney, senior research associate for the U of M Division of Student Affairs.

The U-SHAPE survey is believed to be the first comprehensive research of its kind.

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