A new study shows a preliminary association between vaping and a higher likelihood of an eating disorder diagnosis and an increased risk of having an eating disorder.
The study, published in the scientific journal Eating Behaviors, focused on a sample of nearly 52,000 students and their habits that was taken from an annual Healthy Minds Study, according to Kyle Ganson, an author of the study and associate professor at the University of Toronto.
“What we looked at was whether these two factors, a lifetime history of eating disorders and the risk for eating disorders, were associated with vaping,” Ganson said. “What we found is that if you’ve vaped in the past 30 days to some extent, you’re more likely to test positive for an eating disorder.”
The study focused on college students because of the commonality of eating and substance use disorders within their demographic, according to Ganson.
“Most people who are diagnosed with an eating disorder will be diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 20. [years old]”Ganson said.” This type of college sample is ripe for mental health and addiction issues. “
Ganson said eating disorder and vaping behaviors are an important topic of investigation among a “high risk” population.
“In college age, young people all want to experiment, be independent and make choices,” said Ganson, “but there’s a line between fun and normal exploration and some pretty serious and problematic behaviors. “
Eating disorders generally coincide with many other health problems not related to food, according to Ganson.
“In general, we know that for people who suffer from eating disorders, there is an overlap with substance use and other mental health issues,” Ganson said.
Casey Tallent, director of college and tele-behavioral health initiatives at the Eating Recovery Center, specializes in improving eating disorder treatment and services on college campuses.
“The results on correlations between vaping and self-reported eating disorder prevalence rate are not surprising,” Tallent said. “We are seeing a strong comorbidity in eating disorders and substance use, as substance use and eating disorders are often methods of coping with anxiety or depression which becomes the main one. problem. “
The study also found that nicotine vaping is the most common form of vaping among people diagnosed with an eating disorder.
“If you vape nicotine, it can be helpful in suppressing your appetite,” Ganson said. “If you vaporize flavors, it could be a way to kind of experiment with the flavors of food if you are actually limiting your food. So there are certainly nuances about why people might use vaping in the context of eating disorder behaviors.
Developing an eating disorder or substance abuse problem tends to worsen other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, according to Tallent.
“In treatment, once we deal with the underlying anxiety and depression and teach mindfulness so that we don’t need to escape our emotions,” Tallent said. “The need to engage in eating or substance use disorders is drastically reduced. “
Ganson said he hopes campuses across the country “see the need” for continued mental health and substance use awareness efforts.
“I think that [the study] That means we definitely need more interventions or… health related initiatives in colleges to help raise awareness about this and potentially reduce vaping and e-cigarette use, ”Ganson said.