Prevalence of eating disorder symptomatology among outpatients referred to health promotion from somatic hospital departments.

Signe Graungaard*, Tobias Lund Christensen, Lise Noerregaard Soendergaard, Gry Kjaersdam Telléus


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Background and aims: All eating disorders (EDs) lead to a significant decrease of health status, psychosocial functioning and quality of life (QoL). Individuals with untreated binge eating disorder (BED) tend to gain weight over time, which may contribute to serious health issues. In somatic hospital departments, some outpatients have reduced compliance with lifestyle changes. This may, to some extent, be due to patients with an undiagnosed ED receiving the incorrect treatment. In this cross-sectional study, we aimed to investigate the prevalence of EDs among patients referred to lifestyle courses.

Results: A total of 136 patients referred from somatic hospital departments to lifestyle changes in a specialized hospital unit were included in the study. The response rate was 69.4%. Self-reported ED or sub-clinical symptoms of ED according to the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) were found in 17.65%. Of these, 11.03% fulfilled the self-reported criteria for an ED (BED, 7.35%; bulimia nervosa, 3.68%). Patients with an ED or subclinical ED symptoms had elevated grazing behaviour compared to those without ED symptomatology. A statistically significant difference in QoL was also found.

Discussion and conclusions: The prevalence of self-reported ED or subclinical ED symptoms in patients referred to a lifestyle course is substantial. This ED group had reduced QoL and larger grazing behaviour compared to patients without ED symptomatology. Thus, the prevalence of undiagnosed EDs among patients within somatic hospital departments may be substantial, underlining the importance of screening and further research within this topic.

Level of evidence: Level III, well-designed cohort study.

Significance: What is already known on this subject? In a review including populations from Scandinavia, the USA and South America, the estimated BED prevalence in individuals with higher body weight seeking help to lose weight is 13-27% [22]. Dawes et al. (2016) conducted a meta-analysis investigating the prevalence of mental health conditions among bariatric surgery candidates and recipients. They included 25 studies with a total of 13,769 patients and found that the prevalence of BED was 17% (13-21%) [10]. What this study adds? We have identified a group of patients who may be receiving inappropriate treatment with weight loss intervention instead of specialized ED intervention. It appears that this issue is valid in various somatic hospital departments. Thus, this is a field that requires further attention and investigation.
TidsskriftBMC Psychiatry
Udgave nummer1
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2023

Bibliografisk note

© 2023. The Author(s).


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