Diabetes and disordered eating behaviours in a community-based sample of australian adolescents

Kirrilly M. Pursey, Phillipa Hay, Kay Bussey, Nora Trompeter, Alexandra Lonergan, Kathleen M. Pike, Jonathon Mond, Deborah Mitchison*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Background: People with diabetes have been shown to be at risk for disordered eating compared to their non-diabetic peers. However, the majority of studies have been conducted in relatively small samples drawn from clinical diabetes settings or registries. Community-based samples are required to better understand disordered eating behaviours in this population. In a large community-based population sample of Australian adolescents, this study aimed to (1) investigate disordered eating behaviours in adolescents reporting a diagnosis of diabetes compared to their non-diabetic peers and (2) test associations between disordered eating behaviours and insulin restriction. Methods: Secondary school students (n = 4854; mean (SD) age 14.4 (1.6) years; 47% boys) completed an online survey, including self-reported presence of diabetes, demographics, weight status, substance use, insulin restriction and disordered eating behaviours. Clinically meaningful cut-offs for disordered eating behaviours were generated for analysis. Results: Disordered eating behaviours, specifically self-induced vomiting (diabetes 19.2%, no diabetes 3.3%; p < 0.001), laxative use (diabetes 15.4%, no diabetes 2.1%; p < 0.001), use of cigarettes (diabetes 26.9%, no diabetes 4.3%; p < 0.001) and other drugs (diabetes 28.9%, no diabetes 4.0%; p < 0.001), cleanse/detox (diabetes 30.8%, no diabetes 10.5%; p < 0.001) and extreme weight loss diets (diabetes 13.5%, no diabetes 4.7%; p < 0.003) were higher in those reporting a diagnosis of diabetes. In addition, 17% of those with diabetes reported frequent insulin restriction (≥ once per week), and insulin restriction was associated with more frequent disordered eating behaviours. Conclusion: There was a high rate of disordered eating behaviours in adolescents with diabetes compared to their peers without diabetes. The findings of this study may have the potential to inform future health promotion, prevention, and early intervention approaches for those with comorbid diabetes and disordered eating behaviours. Future longitudinal studies are required to evaluate disordered eating behaviours in those with diabetes over time in community-based samples.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • disordered eating behaviours
  • diabetes
  • eating disorders
  • adolescence


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