B4054 - Autism autistic traits and disordered eating behaviours in young adulthood a population based cohort study - 20/04/2022

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Ms Amanda Ly | Bristol Medical School (PHS), MRC IEU, Centre of Academic Mental Health (United Kingdom)
Mr Lawrence Howes, Dr Helen Bould, Dr Dheeraj Rai
Title of project: 
Autism, autistic traits and disordered eating behaviours in young adulthood: a population based cohort study
Proposal summary: 

ASD (autism spectrum disorder, to be described as autism here) is a lifelong heritable condition with traits that present themselves at different levels of severity in those affected. Autism is characterised by core traits that include difficulties with social communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviours. The prevalence of diagnosed autism, estimated in large scale surveys to be approximately 1% across all ages, has been increasing in children and adults. While the factors driving this trend are widely debated, it is clear there will likely be a requirement for increased support from health and social care services.

Eating disorders are sometimes fatal mental health disorders that can seriously damage physical health. This group of psychiatric disorders are characterised by eating or weight control behaviours that are abnormal. Disordered eating behaviours (e.g. restrictive eating, fasting, purging, and binging) are risk factors for the development of diagnosable eating disorders.

Autistic adults are at increased risk of poor health outcomes and it has long been noted that the inflexibility visible in eating disorders can appear autistic in nature. Furthermore, difficulties in social communication have been associated with an increased risk of disordered eating behaviours in adolescence. This serves to highlight the requirement for a clearer understanding of the relationship between these conditions in adulthood, particularly as this may be a time in development where the individual acquires more control over food purchases and eating behaviours.

During this project we wish to find out if individuals with diagnosed autism and those with high levels of autistic traits are more likely to have any disordered eating behaviours in adulthood (and which behaviours these might be).

Impact of research: 
Increased understanding of the relationship between autism, autistic traits and disordered eating behaviours. If we identify relevant moderators or mediators this could also contribute towards the evidence base to potentially inform development of intervention strategies to support autistic individuals and those with high levels of autistic traits.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 15 April, 2022
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 20 April, 2022
Epidemiology, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Developmental disorders - autism, Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, Mental health, Statistical methods