Possible pathways between depression, emotional and external eating. A structural equation model

Appetite. 2009 Oct;53(2):245-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.06.001. Epub 2009 Jun 6.


Emotional and external eating appear to co-occur and both have been shown to correlate to neuroticism, especially depression. However, there is evidence suggesting that emotional and external eating are independent constructs. In this study we revisited the relation between depression, emotional, and external eating. Using structural equation modelling, we examined whether depression, emotional and external eating are directly related and also indirectly related through the intervening concepts alexithymia and impulsivity. Participants were 549 females concerned about their weight. They filled out instruments on emotional and external eating, depression, alexithymia, and impulse regulation. The relational structure between the model variables was explored for one half of the participants and this solution was checked using the other half. Our data showed a moderate relationship between emotional and external eating. Depression was positively and directly associated with emotional eating, but not with external eating. In addition, depression was indirectly related to emotional eating through both alexithymia and impulsivity. A significant relation was found between impulsivity and external eating. Results suggest potential mediating pathways between depression and emotional eating, while no relation appeared to exist between depression and external eating. Emotional and external eating would appear to be different constructs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Netherlands
  • Surveys and Questionnaires