The development of bulimic symptoms from adolescence to young adulthood in females and males: A population-based longitudinal cohort study




To investigate age-related trends in bulimic symptoms and associated putative risk factors among Norwegian youth.


A sample of 3,150 participants, 1,421 (45.1%) males and 1,759 (54.9%) females, was prospectively followed for 11 years at three time points from adolescence to adulthood. Linear random coefficient models were applied.


For females, bulimic symptoms increased from age 14 to 16 and declined slowly thereafter. For males, the symptoms decreased between ages 14 and 16 and returned in the early 20s. Females had higher levels of symptoms than males at every age. Age-associated trends in body mass index, appearance satisfaction, and symptoms of anxiety and depression were associated with some of the trends for both genders. For females, changes in alcohol consumption and cohabitation status functioned as predictors as well.


Males and females show distinct developmental trajectories of bulimic symptoms during adolescence and in the transition to adulthood. Prevention interventions should focus on putative risk factors in mid-adolescence for females and in the early 20s for males. © 2011 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012; 45:737–745)