To assess the prevalence of disordered eating behaviors (DEBs) in a large sample of Italian adolescents with type 1 diabetes and to explore potential demographic, clinical, and psychological differences (understood as emotional and behavioral problems) among adolescents with and without DEBs.
Adolescents (11–19 years) with type 1 diabetes completed the Diabetes Eating Problems Survey-revised (DEPS-r) and the Youth Self Report (YSR). Demographic and clinical data were also collected.
Of 690 adolescents with type 1 diabetes (mean age 14.97 ± 1.81, n = 337 girls) assessed in this study, 28.1% (21% boys, 35% girls) were DEPS-r positive (score ≥ 20). Girls had higher DEPS-r total scores (p < .0001, d = .42) than boys, although no age differences were found in mean DEPS-r total scores (p = .961). In both genders, adolescents with DEBs had significantly higher zBMI (p < .0001, d = .52) and HbA1c values (p < .0001, d = .54) and showed more emotional and behavioral problems (both as internalizing and externalizing problems) than those without DEBs (all p < .0001). These differences were largely confirmed in all age groups. Adolescents reporting insulin misuse had higher HbA1c values (p = .001, d = .26), higher DEPS-r mean scores (p < .0001, d = 1.07), and greater psychological problems (all p < .001) than those who did not.
DEBs are prevalent among adolescents with type 1 diabetes, and those with eating problems showed adverse clinical and psychological conditions. Routine screening for DEBs and of general psychological condition should be a fundamental part of diabetes care, especially during adolescence.
Public significance statement
This nationwide study indicated that DEBs are common in adolescents with T1D, and those suffering from them show poorer clinical conditions and higher emotional and behavioral problems. As such, it offers important contributions for those working with EDs and in the T1D field, as it provides a deeper understanding of the co-occurring DEBs–emotional/behavioral problems in youths with T1D and highlights the importance of continuous monitoring of their psychological condition by a multidisciplinary team.