Increased prevalence of eating disorders, low self-esteem, and psychological distress in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a community-based cohort study

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Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of eating disorders in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) compared with women without PCOS and examine the relationship between PCOS, body mass index, self-esteem, and psychological distress scores. Design: Cross-sectional, community-based study. Setting: Not applicable. Patient(s): A total of 8,467 participants born between 1989 and 1995 in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health with self-reported PCOS status (PCOS n = 875 vs. non-PCOS n = 7,592). Intervention(s): None. Main Outcome Measures(s): Self-reported eating disorders, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and Kessler psychological distress scale. Result(s): Compared with women not reporting PCOS, women reporting PCOS had higher prevalence of eating disorders (11.0% vs. 7.6%), low self-esteem (31.7% vs. 24.2%), and psychological distress (severe psychological distress: 21.0% vs. 13.5%). After adjusting for confounders, women reporting PCOS were more likely to report eating disorders (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2–2.0). Low self-esteem and psychological distress were highly correlated and further increased the odds of eating disorders in women reporting PCOS. Polycystic ovary syndrome was significantly associated with low self-esteem and psychological distress but not after adjusting for confounders. Obesity was associated with low self-esteem (adjusted OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–1.8) and psychological distress (adjusted OR 1.2, 95% CI 1.0–1.4) but not eating disorders. Underweight women had increased odds for eating disorders (adjusted OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.8–3.4). Conclusion(s): Women with PCOS are more likely to report low self-esteem, psychological distress, and eating disorders. Low self-esteem and psychological distress are highly correlated and further increased the risk for eating disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-361
Number of pages8
JournalFertility and Sterility
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Eating disorder
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • psychological distress
  • self-esteem

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