VHA-Enrolled Homeless Veterans Are at Increased Risk for Eating Disorder Diagnoses

Whitney S. Livingston, Emily Brignone, Jamison D. Fargo, Adi V. Gundlapalli, Shira Maguen, Rebecca K. Blais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Introduction: Veterans are overrepresented in the U.S. homeless population, comprising 8.6% of the general U.S. population, but 14% of the homeless population. Homeless veterans have several risk factors for eating disorder diagnoses, but the association of homelessness and eating disorders in this population is understudied. Given limited access to adequate food given their diminished resources, it is critical to better understand risk for eating disorders as a function of homelessness. Materials and Methods: Administrative data on homelessness, eating disorder diagnoses, and related comorbidities occurring within the first 5 years of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) healthcare utilization between 2004 and 2014 in 265,806 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans were extracted from VHA medical records. Logistic regression analysis estimated the risk for eating disorders as a function of homelessness while accounting for demographic, military, and mental health covariates. Results: Homelessness was observed in 11,876 veterans (4.5%), and of these, 71 (0.6%) had an eating disorder diagnosis. Odds of having an eating disorder diagnosis were 59% higher (adjusted odds ratio = 1.59, 95% confidence interval [1.21-2.09]) among homeless veterans relative to domiciled veterans. Conclusions: A diagnosis of eating disorders in veterans is rare at the VHA, however, the current study found that homelessness may increase risk for eating disorders in this population. Unique strategies to provide evidenced-based care while accounting for inadequate daily resources are needed to reduce the risk of eating disorders in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E71-E75
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders
  • Homelessness
  • Veterans
  • and Bulimia Nervosa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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