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Experiencing Household Food Insecurity During Adolescence Predicts Disordered Eating and Elevated Body Mass Index 8 Years Later

      Abstract

      Purpose

      Growing evidence indicates that experiencing household food insecurity during adolescence is associated with disordered eating and elevated body mass index (BMI). However, little is known about the temporal nature of these relationships. The current longitudinal study examined how adolescent experiences of household food insecurity are related to disordered eating and weight status 8 years later.

      Methods

      A population-based sample of ethnically/racially and socioeconomically diverse participants (n = 1,340) were surveyed as adolescents (mean age = 14.5 years) and as young adults (mean age = 22.0 years). Parents/caregivers completed the six-item U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module at baseline.

      Results

      Household food insecurity was common at baseline (37.8% of sample). In analyses adjusted for ethnicity/race and parental education, adolescent food insecurity longitudinally predicted a higher new onset of binge eating (food insecure: 21.3% vs. food secure: 16.2%, p = .038) and BMI ≥30 kg/m2 (food insecure: 15.9% vs. food secure: 11.0%, p = .024), but not unhealthy weight control behaviors in young adulthood. The majority of adolescents with unhealthy weight control behaviors and elevated BMI still had these problems in young adulthood, but persistence was not associated with adolescent household food insecurity for any outcome.

      Discussion

      Results of this longitudinal study suggest that household food insecurity during adolescence is a risk factor for disordered eating and elevated BMI in young adulthood, highlighting a need to comprehensively address these intersecting problems.

      Keywords

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