• medical and psychiatric morbidity;
  • obesity;
  • binge eating



To determine the prevalence of obesity and binge eating in a population-based sample of female twins and to examine whether the presence of binge eating was associated with a greater risk for medical and psychiatric disorders in obese women.


A population-based study of twins who were born between 1934 and 1971 and both members responded to a mailed questionnaire (individual response rate was conservatively estimated to be 64%). Data for the present study are from the first and third interview waves. In Wave 1 (1987–1989), we assessed 92% of the eligible individuals (N = 2,163), 90% face-to-face and the remainder by telephone. We assessed lifetime history of psychiatric disorders, major medical disorders, health limitations, health satisfaction, and an array of personality and attitudinal measures.


Obese women with binge eating reported greater health dissatisfaction and higher rates of major medical disorders than obese women without binge eating. Binge eating was also associated with higher lifetime prevalence of major depression, panic disorder, phobias, and alcohol dependence. Obese women with binge eating scored higher on neuroticism and symptom scales measuring depression, anxiety/phobia, and neurovegetative symptoms (i.e., insomnia, agitation, retardation, and obsessive-compulsive traits).


The presence of binge eating in obese women is a marker for greater medical and psychiatric morbidity. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 72–78, 2002.