A study of comorbidity in high school students: relationships of self-reported depressive symptoms, eating attitudes, body dissatisfaction, self esteem, and social support in adolescent males and females
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Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders seen in adolescence. Low self-esteem, lack of social support and poor body image have been found to be risk factors for depression. However, these risk factors have not adequately explained why adolescent female rates of depressive episodes rise to almost twice that of males. One of many hypotheses proposed in the research is that the concurrent increase seen in eating disorders in adolescent females may be able to explain part of this precipitous rise in female cases of depression. This line of research proposes that a portion of the increase in adolescent depression in females can be explained, in part, by comorbid eating disorders symptomatology. The present study explored this hypothesis, along with related issues in comorbidity. This study had several aims. The primary focus of the study was to look at the comorbidity between disordered eating and depressive symptomatology in male and female high school students. A secondary aim of the study was to look at the relationship between disordered eating and depressive symptoms, along with several of their risk factors: low social support, low self-esteem and low body satisfaction. In particular, when the effects of these three risk factors are statistically controlled for, does disordered eating contribute above and beyond these risk factors to depressive symptoms? Finally, a modified version of the gender additive model was examined which hypothesized that a combination of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction variables combine to increase depressive symptoms in females. Two hundred and two high school students participated in this study. Results indicate that depression and eating disorders are two significant problems facing both male and female adolescents today. Forty percent of students met criteria for possible significant depressive symptomatology while 12% of students met criteria for possible significant disordered eating symptomatology. Comorbidity was seen in 12% of students who met criteria for significant depressive and disordered eating symptoms. The modified gender additive model was not supported in this study. Implications and limitations of this study and suggestions for future research are discussed.