Tracking drinks and diets: An examination of the co-occurrence of alcohol, drunkorexia, and fitness trackers among college students

Jennifer Ann Kelleher

Abstract


Nearly 40% of all college students binge drink1. Such a high prevalence of risky drinking has contributed to health and behavioral issues including increased violence, unwanted sexual relations, and academic problems2,3. In addition, approximately 39% of students engage in drunkorexia, or the act of limiting calorie intake on days that alcohol is planned to be consumed or compensating for the calories by excessively exercising 4, 5 . Moreover, drunkorexia is linked to various negative alcohol-related consequences. In addition, many people use smartphone apps and fitness trackers to monitor their diets, especially those who are concerned about their appearances6. However, no research has examined if those who use fitness trackers and apps are more likely to engage drunkorexia. To explore the relationship between fitness trackers and drunkorexia, the authors wrote questions to assess fitness track usage. The survey also included the Compensatory Eating and Behaviors in Response to Alcohol Scale7 to assess the participants’ drunkorexic behaviors.  The online survey was administered electronically to undergraduate college students at a Midwest, mid-sized public university. Results suggest that fitness technology correlates to the drunkorexic scale on dietary restraint and exercise, but not the scales on bulimia, dietary restriction, and alcohol effect; therefore, suggesting fitness technology may be a mechanism that increases drunkorexia in some individuals, but not all. Understanding the mechanisms that drive drunkorexia are important because intervention strategies for binge drinking and drunkorexia can be better targeted towards those factors, such as fitness technology, that are augmenting the problem. Future research may want to investigate when fitness trackers are a mechanism behind drunkorexia and what different personality profiles exist for each scale of drunkorexia. Defining the different profiles of those who engage in drunkorexia will provide a better understanding of what sort of person fitness technology may actually harm one’s health instead of benefit it.


Keywords


Drunkorexia, Alcohol, Wearable Fitness Technology

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