Eating disorder behaviors and treatment seeking in self-identified military personnel and veterans: Results of the National Eating Disorders Association online screening

Rachael E. Flatt, Elliott Norman, Laura M. Thornton, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Katherine N. Balantekin, Lauren Smolar, Claire Mysko, Denise E. Wilfley, C. Barr Taylor, Cynthia M. Bulik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To characterize disordered eating behaviors, eating disorder (ED) risk and diagnosis, and treatment seeking behaviors in active-duty military personnel/veterans compared with civilians. Method: Self-selecting participants (n = 113,388; 1744 were military personnel/veterans) 18+ years old completed the National Eating Disorders Association's online screen. Engagement in and frequencies of disordered eating behaviors were compared across military/veteran and civilian groups and were stratified by gender. ED risk and diagnosis and treatment seeking behaviors were also compared. Results: Individuals in the military/veteran group were more likely to engage in diuretic/laxative use and excessive exercise compared with civilians. Compared with civilians, the military/veteran group had a lower percentage who screened “at risk for an ED” and a higher percentage who screened for “no risk”. Females in the military/veteran group were more likely to engage in diuretic/laxative use, excessive exercise, and fasting compared with female civilians; males in the military/veteran group were more likely to engage in excessive exercise and less likely to engage in vomiting than male civilians. Of the self-identified military personnel/veterans who screened positive for any ED, 86% had never received treatment, which did not differ significantly from civilians. Notably, 56.7% of those (54.1% of military/veteran group; 56.7% of civilians) who completed an optional item on intention to seek treatment (n = 5312) indicated they would not seek treatment. Conclusions: Disordered eating and ED profiles, but not treatment seeking, may differ between military personnel/veterans and civilians who complete an online ED screen. Future work should emphasize treatment options and connecting respondents directly to tailored resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101562
JournalEating Behaviors
Volume43
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Disordered eating behaviors
  • Eating disorders
  • Military
  • Online screening
  • Treatment seeking
  • Veterans

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