Men are just as likely to binge eat as women—but they rarely get treatment

Most of us have a tendency to think of eating disorders as something that affects only girls and women. The truth is that plenty of men have eating disorders. And when it comes to binge eating—which is associated with obesity, hypertension, depression, and many other symptoms—it turns out that men are just as likely as women to go on eating sprees.

Unfortunately, men have been largely left out of research on the topic. And because they’re left out of the research, they’re severely underrepresented in clinical trials for drugs and other treatments for those disorders.

So it was great to see a study in the March 2012 issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders that tackles this issue head on. The title of the article pretty much says it all: “Why Men Should Be Included in Research on Binge Eating: Results from a Comparison of Psychosocial Impairment in Men and Women.”

Besides causing physical and psychological problems, binge eating is also associated with decreased work productivity on the job. According to the study’s lead author, Ruth Striegel, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University, “With few exceptions, previous studies have examined impairment in a much broader range of life roles such as work, family, and friendships. Many employers already offer resources to help employees change various unhealthy behaviors, yet binge eating has not been among the behaviors to be targeted for change,” she said. “This study illustrates that binge eating is associated with diminished work productivity and that, therefore, employees might benefit from programs that help them overcome this problem.”

According to Richard Bedrosian, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral Health and Solution Development at Wellness & Prevention, Inc. and one of the co-authors of the study, these results indicate that efforts are needed to raise awareness of the clinical significance of binge eating in men so that they can receive appropriate screening and treatment services. “This demonstrates the need to target men for interventions aimed at reducing or preventing binge eating,” he said. “Since men may be reluctant to come forward, online programs, such as digital health coaching, may be more appealing to men than traditional face-to-face treatments.” [see Samantha Feuss’ interview with Franklin]

According to Dr. Bedrosian, these findings demonstrate that men should receive an equal focus when conducting research about and developing treatments for eating disorders.

Whatcha think?