Background: Life events may play a role in precipitating the onset of bulimia nervosa. This study aimed to determine the rates of occurrence of certain life events during the year before onset of disordered eating in women with bulimia nervosa, and to compare them with the rates among age-matched normal controls.
Methods: The subjects were 102 women with bulimia nervosa and 204 women without an eating disorder, all recruited from the same community sample of young adult women. Interview measures were used for diagnosis and for assessment of life events.
Results: The bulimia nervosa cases reported more life events during the year before onset of disordered eating than were reported by controls of the same age. Events involving disruption of family or social relationships, or a threat to physical safety, were especially common among the bulimia nervosa cases.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that certain life events may play a role in precipitating the onset of bulimia nervosa. The study was retrospective in design. Prospective studies of the role of life events would be valuable, but difficult to perform.