Self-perceived food addiction: Prevalence, predictors, and prognosis

Angela Meadows, Laurence J Nolan, Suzanne Higgs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
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Food addiction is controversial within the scientific community. However many lay people consider themselves addicted to certain foods. We assessed the prevalence and characteristics of self-perceived "food addiction" and its relationship to a diagnostic measure of "clinical food addiction" in two samples: (1) 658 university students, and (2) 614 adults from an international online crowdsourcing platform. Participants indicated whether they considered themselves to be addicted to food, and then completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale, measures of eating behavior, body image, and explicit and internalized weight stigma. Participants in the community sample additionally completed measures of impulsivity, food cravings, binge eating, and depressive symptomatology. Follow-up data were collected from a subset of 305 students (mean follow-up 280 ± 30 days). Self-perceived "food addiction" was prevalent, and was associated with elevated levels of problematic eating behavior, body image concerns, and psychopathology compared with "non-addicts", although individuals who also received a positive "diagnosis" on the Yale Food Addiction Scale experienced the most severe symptoms. A clear continuum was evident for all measures despite no differences in body mass index between the three groups. Multinomial logistic regression analyses indicated that perceived lack of self-control around food was the main factor distinguishing between those who did and did not consider themselves addicted to food, whereas severity of food cravings and depressive symptoms were the main discriminating variables between self-classifiers and those receiving a positive "diagnosis" on the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Self-perceived "food addiction" was moderately stable across time, but did not appear predictive of worsening eating pathology. Self-classification as a "food addict" may be of use in identifying individuals in need of assistance with food misuse, loss-of-control eating, and body image issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-298
Number of pages17
Early online date3 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Food addiction
  • Food use disorder
  • Disordered eating
  • Eating self-efficacy
  • Body image


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