The aim of this study was to report nationwide data of the prevalence of disordered eating behaviors (DEBs) in adolescents with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and to evaluate a multidimensional model of eating problems, analyzing how psychopathological problems are associated with DEBs and with metabolic control.
This study was carried out using a cross-sectional design with a sample of 1,562 patients with T1D (812 male), aged 11–19 years. Participants were recruited from multiple pediatric diabetes centers (N = 30) located in northern, central, and southern Italy, and they individually completed the Diabetes Eating Problem Survey–Revised (DEPS-r) and the Youth Self-Report (YSR). Sociodemographic and clinical data were also gathered. Multiple-group structural equation modeling was used to investigate the relationships between internalizing/externalizing symptoms, DEBs, and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) values.
A total of 29.7% of the participants reported DEBs (DEPS-r scores ≥20), 42.4% reported insulin manipulation (IM). The prevalence of DEBs was higher for female participants (p ≤ .001). The model explains 37% of the variance in disordered eating, 12% in IM, and 21% in HbA1c values. Body mass index, externalizing symptoms, and internalizing symptoms were significantly and positively associated with DEBs, which in turn were significantly and positively associated with HbA1c values (all p ≤ .001). Externalizing (p ≤ .001) and internalizing (p ≤ .01) symptoms were also directly associated with HbA1c values.
Given the relevant prevalence of DEBs, their significant positive association with psychopathological symptoms, and their relationship with worse diabetes outcomes, regular psychological screening and support is needed to ensure the best care of adolescents with T1D.