Mayo Clinic researcher finds nearly one out of ten female soldiers suffer from eating disorders

November 17, 1999

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- A researcher at Mayo Clinic has found that eating disorders plague eight percent of women on active duty in the United States Army. This prevalence of eating disorders is significantly higher than in the general female population, which usually runs between one and three percent.

"The women with eating disorders exercised, felt dissatisfied with their weight, and felt significantly more pressure about their weight than the women without eating disorders," says Tamara Lauder, M.D., a Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and lead author of the study. "Previous studies have shown that women who participate in sports and other physical activities that emphasize leanness have been found to have a higher prevalence of eating disorders. Women also suffer from eating disorders more often than men."

Dr. Lauder, who did the study while at Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Wash., explains that military personal are often required to maintain a high level of fitness for duty requirements. They also have the pressures of weight requirements and performance measures for career advancement.

A year-long prospective cross-sectional study was conducted to look at the prevalence of abnormal eating behaviors in female soldiers on active duty. A total of 423 female soldiers from the general population on active duty from Fort Lewis, Wash., volunteered to participate in the study. Of the 423 women interviewed, 33 women were diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Researchers used a questionnaire and clinical interview to document the findings. The study was published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal.
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