Restrictive eating, but not binge eating or purging, predicts suicidal ideation in adolescents and young adults with low-weight eating disorders

Int J Eat Disord. 2020 Mar;53(3):472-477. doi: 10.1002/eat.23210. Epub 2019 Dec 30.


Objective: This study examined the relationship between eating-disorder behaviors-including restrictive eating, binge eating, and purging-and suicidal ideation. We hypothesized that restrictive eating would significantly predict suicidal ideation, beyond the effects of binge eating/purging.

Methods: Participants were 82 adolescents and young adults with low-weight eating disorders. We conducted a hierarchical logistic regression, with binge eating and purging in Step 1 and restrictive eating in Step 2, to predict suicidal ideation.

Results: Step 1 was significant (p = .01) and explained 20% variance in suicidal ideation; neither binge eating nor purging significantly predicted suicidal ideation. Adding restrictive eating in Step 2 significantly improved the model (ΔR2 = .07, p = .009). This final model explained 27% of the variance, and restrictive eating (but not binge eating/purging) significantly predicted suicidal ideation (p = .02).

Discussion: Restrictive eating is associated with suicidal ideation in youth with low-weight eating disorders, beyond the effects of other eating-disorder behaviors. Although healthcare providers may be more likely to screen for suicidality in patients with binge eating and purging, our findings indicate clinicians should regularly assess suicide and self-injury in patients with restrictive eating. Future research examining how individuals progress from suicidal ideation to suicidal attempts can further enhance our understanding of suicide in eating disorders.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; eating disorders; low weight; restrictive eating; suicidal ideation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / complications*
  • Child
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Young Adult