It’s no surprise that some of us may have been reaching for a glass of wine or two during this particularly stressful period.
And now a new study has revealed social isolation is playing a part in increasing the likelihood of Drunkorexia - particularly in young women.
Drunkorexia is a damaging and dangerous behaviour, where disordered patterns of eating are used to offset negative effects of consuming excess alcohol, such as gaining weight.
Research from the University of South Australia examined the drinking patterns of 479 female Australian university students aged 18–24 years and discovered a staggering 82.7 per cent of female university students surveyed had engaged in Drunkorexic behaviours over the past three months.
Researchers found more than 28 per cent were regularly and purposely skipping meals, consuming low-calorie or sugar-free alcoholic beverages, purging or exercising after drinking to help reduce ingested calories from alcohol, at least 25 per cent of the time.
Clinical psychologist and lead UniSA researcher Alycia Powell-Jones said the prevalence of Drunkorexic behaviours among Australian female university students is concerning.
“Due to their age and stage of development, young adults are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours, which can include drinking excess alcohol,” Alycia said.
“Excess alcohol consumption combined with restrictive and disordered eating patterns is extremely dangerous and can dramatically increase the risk of developing serious physical and psychological consequences, including hypoglycaemia, liver cirrhosis, nutritional deficits, brain and heart damage, memory lapses, blackouts, depression and cognitive deficits.
“Certainly, many of us have drunk too much alcohol at some point in time, and we know just by how we feel the next day, that this is not good for us, but when nearly a third of young female uni students are intentionally cutting back on food purely to offset alcohol calories; it’s a serious health concern.”
The harmful use of alcohol is a global issue, with excess consumption causing millions of deaths, including many thousands of young lives.
In Australia, one in six people consume alcohol at dangerous levels, placing them at lifetime risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury. The combination of excessive alcohol intake with restrictive eating behaviours to offset calories can result in a highly toxic cocktail for this population.
The study was undertaken in two stages. The first measured the prevalence of self-reported, compensative and restrictive activities in relation to their alcohol consumption.
The second stage identified participants’ Early Maladaptive Schemes (EMS) – or thought patterns that can develop in childhood and then can influence all areas of life – finding that that the subset of schemas most predictive of Drunkorexia were ‘insufficient self-control’, ‘emotional deprivation’ and ‘social isolation’.
Overall, drunkorexic behaviour appears to be motivated by two key ‘social norms’ young adults are faced with – consuming alcohol and thinness.
“Not only may it be a coping strategy to manage social anxieties through becoming accepted and fitting in with peer group or cultural expectations, but it also shows a reliance on avoidant coping strategies,” Alycia said
“It is important that clinicians, educators, parents and friends are aware of the factors that motivate young women to engage in this harmful and dangerous behaviour, including cultural norms, beliefs that drive self-worth, a sense of belonging, and interpersonal connectedness.
“By being connected, researchers and clinicians can develop appropriate clinical interventions and support for vulnerable young people within the youth mental health sector.”
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