Dr. Tahany M. Gadalla is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Canada. Her line of research is on mental disorders in women.
Subject: “Alcohol use disorders and eating disorders”
1. Is there any association between eating disorders and alcohol use disorders? If so, is there any gender or age related effects on this association? And finally, which eating disorder is most commonly associated with alcohol use disorders?
Results of the meta analysis showed that alcohol use disorders are significantly associated with most patterns of disordered eating. The results also showed that bulimia nervosa (including bulimic behavior) and eating disoeders not otherwise specified were the most commonly eating disorders associated with alcohol use disorders. Using a large nationally representative sample of Canadian women and men Gadalla and Piran (2007) found that alcohol interference was associated with the risk for an eating disorder in both women and men. In another study, also based on a large national survey, Piran and Gadalla (2006) found significant association between alcohol use disorders and risk for eating disorders among women in all age groups, 15-24 years, 25-44 years and 45 years or older.
(a) Gadalla T & Piran N. (2007). Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse in Canadian men and women: A National Study. Eating Disorders, 15:189-203.
(b) Piran N, Gadalla T. (2006). Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse in Canadian women: A National Study. Addiction, 102:105-113.
2. Do you believe this association could be causal, i.e., a person who develops eating disorders might be at a greater risk for developing, later on in life, a harmful pattern of alcohol consumption or vice-versa?
We do not know whether the association between eating disorders and alcohol use disorders is causal. Most of the studies reported to date, are cross-sectional, which precludes the examination of underlying mechanisms and temporal relations that may explain the observed association. Results of these studies suggest that depression may act as a mediator in the relationship between eating disorders and alcohol use disorders (Gadalla and Piran, in press).
(c) Gadalla T, Piran N. (in press). Eating Disorders, Substance Use Disorders and Major Depression in the Canadian Population. Journal of Mental Health.
3. Finally, besides alcohol use disorders, is there a co-morbidity between eating disorders and any other substance use disorder?
Significant associations were found between risk for an eating disorder and the lifetime abuse of and dependence on illicit drugs for women in all three age groups, 15-24 years, 25-44 years and 45 years or older. Significant associations were also found in women 15-24 and 25-44 age groups when the 12-month time frame was used (Piran and Gadalla, 2006).