IntroductionRisky drinking and disordered eating patterns, including eating disorders, are common among college students; approximately 30% of female students have reported restricting calories to “save them” for drinking. Restricting food or calories along with heavy alcohol consumption is a recipe for disaster, increasing the risk of health and behavioral consequences. Research is lacking on the motivations regarding these alcohol-related eating patterns, termed drunkorexia in recent popular media stories.MethodsThe analysis examines data from a health survey given to college students in a Psychology 1000 class at a large Midwestern university. Students completed an online survey including questions regarding calorie restriction as it related to alcohol consumption, motivations for restricting, and different ways of restricting calories. Associations between disordered eating and alcohol misuse were examined for sex and Greek status differences.ResultsFourteen percent of students reported restricting calories before alcohol consumption (25% of females and 11% of males), with 9% restricting to avoid gaining weight and nearly 4% to get drunk faster. Of those 14% who did restrict, 64% did it to avoid weight gain; 25% to get drunk faster; and 2% because of peer pressure. Of those who restricted, most (21%) were not in a fraternity or sorority, but frequently attended Greek parties; 18% were Greek members.ConclusionsA fairly significant proportion of college students display disordered eating patterns such as purposely restricting calories to be able to increase their alcohol intake. Most students restrict food intake either to avoid weight gain from alcohol intake or to increase the likelihood of faster inebriation. Although sex differences exist, this is a phenomenon seen in both male and female college students. Interestingly, women and men who are members of sororities or fraternities did not comprise the largest group of students to exhibit this disordered eating pattern. Future research needs to investigate the characteristics of those students who did not identify as members of Greek organizations but frequently attend Greek events, as they seem to be the students with the highest level of engagement in disordered eating related to high levels of alcohol intake.Public Health RelevanceUnderstanding college students' alcohol-related motivations to engage in disordered eating patterns can help college administrators develop effective education, awareness, and prevention programs. Targeted interventions geared towards certain demographic characteristics (sex, Greek status) may increase effectiveness.
Osborne, V.; Sher, K.J.; and Winograd, Rachel, "Disordered eating patterns and alcohol misuse in college students: evidence for “drunkorexia”?" (2011). Psychology Faculty Works. 111.
Available at: https://irl.umsl.edu/psychology-faculty/111