Depression and eating pathology: Prospective reciprocal relations in adolescents



The association between disordered eating and depression has been established, but less is known about the temporal relations between these two disturbances. Accordingly, the current study examined the reciprocal relations between depressive and bulimic symptoms over an 8-year period, with longitudinal data from a community sample of 496 female adolescents. Depressive symptoms predicted future increases in bulimic symptoms, and bulimic symptoms likewise predicted increases in depressive symptoms, controlling for earlier levels of symptoms for each outcome. These results provide evidence consistent with the hypothesis that the two disorders contribute reciprocally to each other, and indicate that successful prevention or treatment of one disorder may yield effects for the other. However, the relatively small predictive effect sizes imply that some third variable may contribute to both conditions (e.g., temperamental negative affectivity). Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message:

• Depression and bulimia contribute reciprocally to each other.

• Successful treatment or prevention of one disorder may yield effects for the other.

• Third variable may also contribute to both conditions.