Binge eating linked to increased risk of suicidal behavior among teens, study finds

Poor body image can lead to anxiety, depression and an increased risk for suicide among African American girls, according to new research from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers followed 313 African-American females for 11 years starting at about age 6. The participants were assessed periodically for levels of anxiety, depression, body image and eating behaviors, with a particular focus on binge eating. Suicide attempts were also noted.

They found that dissatisfaction with physical appearance predicted the development of symptoms of depression and anxiety in adolescence. This, in turn, predicted binge eating behaviors. Those girls who reported higher frequencies of binge eating also reported more suicide attempts.

The authors point to these findings as an opportunity for targeted, early interventions for high risk individuals.

The study, “Internalizing Antecedents and Consequences of Binge Eating Behaviors in a Community-Based, Urban Sample of African American Females,” appeared online this week in the journal Prevention Science.