Associations between eating disorder symptoms, employment status, and occupational functioning among female veterans

Eat Behav. 2021 Aug:42:101536. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2021.101536. Epub 2021 Jun 21.


Background: Eating disorders (EDs) have been shown to negatively impact occupational functioning and may be associated with employment status. Findings have been inconsistent, and depression may mediate this relation. Further, prior research focuses mainly on binge eating disorder's (BED) impact on occupational functioning. We assessed the association between transdiagnostic ED symptoms and occupational functioning and employment status among female veterans, who tend to have high rates of EDs and unemployment but who remain understudied.

Method: Participants were 198 female veterans (Mage = 54.09) in the New England region who participated in a larger study. They completed a mailed survey including the Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale, Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale, employment status (employed vs. unemployed and out of the workforce), and the Inventory of Psychosocial Functioning to assess occupational functioning.

Results: ED symptoms were not significantly related to employment status but were negatively associated with occupational functioning when controlling for body mass index. Depressive symptoms mediated the associations between ED symptoms and both being out of the workforce and occupational functioning, respectively.

Discussion: Higher levels of ED symptoms were associated with worse occupational functioning in a female veteran sample. Further, comorbid depressive symptoms may be an important treatment target when addressing occupational health in women experiencing ED symptoms.

Keywords: Depression; Eating disorders; Employment; Occupational health; Veterans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binge-Eating Disorder*
  • Bulimia*
  • Employment
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Veterans*