"Drunkorexia" is a term used to describe the new trend of skipping meals and binging on alcoholic drinks. It was once thought to be anecdotal. However, a new study finds that it is more common than previously thought.

Findings showed that the practice is becoming increasingly popular among young women, especially college students. The study found that nearly 60 percent of female undergrads have "drunkorexic" behaviors.

After learning about its existence in the United States, Alissa Knight, a doctoral student at the University of South Australia (UniSA), analyzed the college trend. The new study was published in the Australian Psychologist journal on June 30.

The study showed that 57.7 percent of the female participants reported that they engaged in several disordered eating habits as well as extreme weight-loss or weight-control behaviors about 25 percent of the time or more in the last three months. Knight said the rate is a "considerable percentage."

All of the young female participants said they took the practice during and after a planned social drinking event. Their main reason is to make up for the anticipated calories gained from alcohol drinks.

About 37.5 percent reported they skipped meals before going to a drinking party while 46.3 percent consumed sugar-free or low-calorie drinks during the event. Knight also found that 51.2 percent of the female participants exercised after the social activity.

"Evidence shows young female adults who are binge drinking on an empty stomach, or after strenuous exercise, have increased alcohol toxicity," said Knight.

High levels of alcohol toxicity lead to increased risks of developing severe psychological and physical consequences including depression, blackouts, lapses in memory, cognitive deficits and damage to the heart and brain.

Dr. Susan Simpson, the UniSA Psychology Clinic director who supervised Knight's research, said that while many young women admitted they engaged in disordered eating behaviors regularly, the study found many of them only used extreme methods when alcohol is involved. These methods included purging, starvation, laxatives intake and extreme exercise.

"Drunkorexia appears to have evolved from the need for young girls to meet possibly the two most prominent social norms for young adults — drinking and thinness," added Knight.

The study involved 136 female participants who are currently enrolled at an Australian university. The young women are between the ages of 18 and 25 who consumed alcoholic beverages in the previous three months.

About 86 percent of the study participants were Caucasian while 11 percent were of European descent. The study pool also included 2.9 percent Asian college students.

Photo: Dale Moore | Flickr

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