Eating problems in mid-adolescence
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies while rates of being overweight and obese are increasing, thin or even 'ultra-thin' bodies are often idealised in contemporary modern cultures, particularly for women. This ideal is unattainable for most and can generate body dissatisfaction and unhealthy eating behaviours.
Eating problems cover a broad spectrum of issues ranging from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which can be life threatening, to problematic eating behaviours such as restrictive dieting, which can represent a risk for the later development of eating disorders (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011; Stice, Shaw, & Marti, 2007). Once established, eating disorders are difficult to shift and can be a chronic problem affecting health and quality of life across the life span (Smink, van Hoeken, & Hoek, 2013). A South Australian population-based survey conducted in 2005 identified the lifetime prevalence of eating disorders as 0.3% for anorexia nervosa (80% female), 0.9% for bulimia nervosa (84% female) and 2.3% for binge eating disorder (67% female) (NEDC, 2010).
Many eating problems develop in adolescence, with the peak incidence for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa between the ages of 15 and 19 (Micali, Hagberg, Petersen, & Treasure, 2013). The purpose of ‘Eating problems in mid-adolescence’ from the AIFS is to provide a 'snapshot' of how young people are faring in relation to eating problems at 14-15 years of age, the types of actions they take to control their weight and the association between those actions, particularly dieting, and physical and mental health outcomes.