The relationship between disordered eating and substance use among street-involved youth

Year of award: 2017


  • Nicole Luongo

    King's College London

Project summary

The interaction between eating disorders (EDs) and substance abuse disorders (SUDs) is well documented. Most existing studies draw from clinical rather than community-based samples but this excludes a large group of people whose symptoms are not severe enough to warrant treatment or those for whom treatment is inaccessible due to cost or other factors. 

I intend to build upon existing research by expanding the dominant narrative around the prevalence of comorbid EDs and SUDs outside the clinical setting. I will conduct an ethnographic exploration of street-involved youths’ lived experience of disordered eating, substance abuse, and the inter-relationship between the two. My primary goals, based on preliminary research conducted for my MA thesis, are: to identify the extent to which body image concerns motivate substance abuse; to determine whether the cessation of alcohol and illicit drug use prompts renewed interest in other health-promoting behaviours such as healthy eating and exercise; and to explore whether unintentional self-starvation due to food insecurity facilitates neurological changes that correlate with an increase in substance abuse.

Ultimately, I hope to work in a community setting to develop accessible, affordable and culturally competent treatment options for socioeconomically marginalised youth.