Sunday, September 20, 2009

Educated Family May Mean Higher Eating Disorder Risk

An article published on Reuters recently reported that girls who come from educated families may be at greater risk of developing an eating disorder. This does not mean that girls whose fathers, mothers and grandparents are highly educated are destined to have an eating disorder; however, it reinforces and identifies a group (teenage girls!) who are at risk.

This article was based on a study that followed generations of families in Sweden, specifically families who had girls that were born between 1952 and 1989. While girls whose parents completed college were twice as likely to be treated for an eating disorder than girls whose parents had an elementary school education, the astounding news (to me!) is related to maternal grandmothers' education as predictors of eating disorders. Girls whose maternal grandmothers completed college were six times as likely to be treated for an eating disorder, as compared to girls whose maternal grandmothers only attended elementary school. While it is not clear that greater academic achievement leads to eating disorders, it IS clear that the link exists. The article hypothesizes that expectations may have something to do with it; we have known for awhile that high-achieving girls are at risk for eating disorders, and it is possible that the higher (perceived) expectations that a girl feels (educationally or otherwise), the more at risk a girl is to develop an eating disorder. As mentioned in a previous post about prevention efforts with teenagers, it is important to highlight groups of teenagers that may be at high risk for developing eating disorders, as well as other mental illnesses, to do all that we can to prevent their development.

For the article, follow this link!

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