Almost one in five teenagers has had eating problems, a new research has found. However, it's not looks but anxiety that is causing this.
According to two health surveys carried out a year apart, 13 per cent teens admitted eating problems in either the first or second survey and a further five per cent reported problems in both surveys.
Students who had ongoing eating problems were more likely to report multiple psychological problems and health complaints.
"For example we noticed that students who reported suffering from anxiety earlier in adolescence were 20 times more likely to have ongoing eating problems" says Lea Hautala from the Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic at the University of Turku, Finland.
"And teenagers who were dissatisfied with their appearance only had recurring eating problems if they also reported anxiety earlier in adolescence," Hautala added.
Researchers from the University surveyed 372 students aged between 15 and 17, repeating the survey after one year with the same pupils. 57 per cent were girls and 43 per cent were boys.
"A total of 66 students reported eating problems - 23 only reported problems in the first survey, 24 only reported them in the second survey and 19 reported them in both surveys" she added.
Hautala said: "Students who had previous problems with anxiety were much more likely to suffer sustained eating problems, while those who didn't have previous psychological problems only experienced temporary eating problems and dissatisfaction with their appearance.
"We also found that girls were twice as likely to report eating problems on one occasion than boys and five times more likely to have ongoing problems."
When the researchers compared average results across the two surveys for students with persistent problems and no problems they discovered that: 70 percent of students with persistent problems reported one or more health problems (abdominal pain, dizziness, fatigue, headache and insomnia), compared with only 40 percent of the students with no eating disorders.
47 percent of students with persistent problems reported anxiety, compared with 12 percent of non reporters, the surveys found.
The study also found that 31 percent of the total students reported depression, compared with 5 percent of non-reporters.
The study is published in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing.