Longitudinal predictors of dieting and disordered eating among young adults in the U.S

Int J Eat Disord. 2013 Dec;46(8):790-800. doi: 10.1002/eat.22174. Epub 2013 Aug 28.


Objective: To assess longitudinal associations between cognitive and behavioral characteristics in adolescence and dieting and eating pathology in young adulthood.

Method: Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and multivariate logistic regressions were used to examine the unique and cumulative effects of adolescent behavior and cognition on four weight-related health indicators in young adulthood: dieting, extreme weight loss behaviors (EWLB), binge eating, and eating disorder (ED) diagnosis (N = 14,322).

Results: Early dieting, depression, and body image distortion (BID) prospectively predicted dieting or EWLB at Wave 3. In addition, early depression and dieting were associated with binge eating in young adulthood, and early BID was associated with ED diagnosis. Gender differences were observed. In the prospective models, the effect of depression on the onset of EWLB was stronger for women than men; while association between early depression and ED diagnosis was significantly stronger for men than women. Findings supported a cumulative risk effect. Among women, each additional correlate was associated with greater odds of eating pathology in young adulthood; among men, each additional correlate was associated with greater odds of ever reporting ED diagnosis. Overall prevalence of dieting and eating pathology among young adults was higher among women than men and increased over time for both sexes.

Discussion: Early weight control behavior and cognition affect long term eating patterns and are salient for both young adult men and women. Transition to young adulthood is a critical period for assessing and preventing weight and eating-related health problems.

Keywords: depression; dieting; disordered eating; eating disorders; longitudinal; risk factors; weight loss behaviors; young adult.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult