A prospective study of overeating, binge eating, and depressive symptoms among adolescent and young adult women

J Adolesc Health. 2012 May;50(5):478-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.10.002. Epub 2011 Dec 12.


Purpose: To investigate the temporal relationship between depressive symptoms and overeating and binge eating among adolescent and young adult females in the United States.

Methods: We investigated incident overeating, binge eating, and depressive symptoms among 4,798 females in the Growing Up Today Study, a prospective cohort study of adolescents and young adults throughout the United States. Participants who reported at least monthly episodes of eating a very large amount of food in a short amount of time in the past year, but not experiencing a loss of control, were classified as overeaters. Those who reported a loss of control while overeating were classified as binge eaters. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the McKnight Risk Factor Survey. Participants were followed between 1999 and 2003. Generalized estimating equations were used for lagged analysis with time-varying covariates. Analyses were adjusted for age, age at menarche, body mass index, and follow-up time.

Results: Females reporting depressive symptoms at baseline were two times more likely than their peers to start overeating (odds ratio [OR] = 1.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.4, 2.5) and binge eating (OR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.7, 3.0) during the follow-up. Similarly, females engaging in overeating (OR = 1.9; 95% CI = 1.1, 3.4) or binge eating (OR = 1.9; 95% CI = 1.2, 2.9) at baseline were two times more likely than their peers to develop depressive symptoms during the follow-up.

Conclusions: These results indicate that it is important to consider depressive symptoms in overeating and binge eating prevention and treatment initiatives targeting adolescent and young adult females.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bulimia / epidemiology
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / complications*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / epidemiology
  • Hyperphagia / psychology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult