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A comparative meta-analysis of the prevalence of exercise addiction in adults with and without indicated eating disorders

Abstract

Background

Exercise addiction is associated with multiple adverse outcomes and can be classified as co-occurring with an eating disorder, or a primary condition with no indication of eating disorders. We conducted a meta-analysis exploring the prevalence of exercise addiction in adults with and without indicated eating disorders.

Methods

A systematic review of major databases and grey literature was undertaken from inception to 30/04/2019. Studies reporting prevalence of exercise addiction with and without indicated eating disorders in adults were identified. A random effect meta-analysis was undertaken, calculating odds ratios for exercise addiction with versus without indicated eating disorders.

Results

Nine studies with a total sample of 2140 participants (mean age = 25.06; 70.6% female) were included. Within these, 1732 participants did not show indicated eating disorders (mean age = 26.4; 63.0% female) and 408 had indicated eating disorders (mean age = 23.46; 79.2% female). The odds ratio for exercise addiction in populations with versus without indicated eating disorders was 3.71 (95% CI 2.00–6.89; I2 = 81; p  ≤ 0.001). Exercise addiction prevalence in both populations differed according to the measurement instrument used.

Discussion

Exercise addiction occurs more than three and a half times as often as a comorbidity to an eating disorder than in people without an indicated eating disorder. The creation of a measurement tool able to identify exercise addiction risk in both populations would benefit researchers and practitioners by easily classifying samples.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to express their gratitude to Malcolm Bond, Kyle De Young, Kelsey Serier and Laura Di Lodovico for their help and support in the collection of raw data for analysis.

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Correspondence to Mike Trott.

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Trott, M., Jackson, S.E., Firth, J. et al. A comparative meta-analysis of the prevalence of exercise addiction in adults with and without indicated eating disorders. Eat Weight Disord (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-019-00842-1

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Keywords

  • Exercise addiction
  • Exercise dependence
  • Addiction
  • Pathological exercise
  • Eating disorders
  • Disordered eating