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The present study investigated the occurrence of life events preceding the onset of disturbed eating in binge-eating disorder (BED). In a case-control design, 162 matched pairs of black and white women with BED and women with no current psychiatric disorder, and 107 matched pairs of women with BED and a current general psychiatric disorder were recruited from the community for the New England Women's Health Project. Life events in the year before the onset of disturbed eating were assessed retrospectively with an investigator-based interview. Women with BED reported exposure to a significantly greater number of life events during the year before onset of eating disturbances than both the non-psychiatric and psychiatric control women during the same period of time in their lives. Women with BED had a significantly higher risk of exposure to certain specific life events (e.g., critical comments about shape, weight, or eating; stress related to work, school or other sources; major changes in life circumstances and relationships; physical abuse; and feeling unsafe in a variety of settings) than the non-psychiatric control women, while differences between the BED and the psychiatric control group were less marked. There was no evidence for race-specific exposure to antecedent life events. The results suggest that a greater number and certain specific types of life events increase risk for the subsequent development of BED.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychiatry Res

Publication Date





19 - 29


Adolescent, Adult, Bulimia Nervosa, Case-Control Studies, Female, Humans, Life Change Events, Risk Factors