High prevalence of shoplifting in patients with eating disorders

  • Dai MiyawakiEmail author
  • Ayako Goto
  • Tomoko Harada
  • Tsuneo Yamauchi
  • Yoshihiro Iwakura
  • Hiroki Terakawa
  • Kaoru Hirai
  • Yusuke Miki
  • Yuji Harima
  • Koki Inoue
Original Article



Shoplifting, prevalent in patients diagnosed with bulimia nervosa (BN), is a serious behavioral problem in eating disorder (ED) patients. However, little is known about its overall presence, etiology, and consequences. This study aimed to determine whether shoplifting occurs before or after the onset of ED and to investigate the prevalence and correlates of shoplifting in ED patients.


This was a cross-sectional study of 284 treatment-seeking female patients aged 13–45 with EDs [171 anorexia nervosa (AN); 113 BN]. Shoplifting, impulsive behaviors (self-injury, suicide attempt, sexual promiscuity, alcohol, and illicit drug use), depression, self-esteem, and clinical features of EDs were assessed with an interview.


Lifetime shoplifting prevalence was 28.5% (81/284) with 70.4% (57/81) occurring before ED onset. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that depression [odds ratio (OR), 2.63; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.24–5.60], alcohol abuse (OR, 3.91; 95% CI 1.34–11.38), illicit substance use (OR, 14.42; 95% CI, 1.65–125.86), and self-esteem (OR, 0.90; 95% CI; 0.82–0.99) were associated with lifetime shoplifting, while illness duration, BN, and ED symptom severity were not.


Shoplifting is common in ED patients and precedes ED onset in most patients with a shoplifting history, although the causal relationship between shoplifting and EDs remains inconclusive. Shoplifting may be associated with impulsive behaviors (e.g., alcohol and illicit drug use), depression, and low self-esteem, but not with ED severity. Future research should focus on the unrecognized role of shoplifting as a marker to identify patients at risk of impulsive behaviors and consider treatment options.

Level of evidence

Level V, observational cross-sectional descriptive study.


Shoplifting Japanese Impulsive behavior Anorexia nervosa Bulimia nervosa 



We would like to thank Editage ( for English language editing and Publication Support.


This research did not receive any specific Grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dai Miyawaki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ayako Goto
    • 1
  • Tomoko Harada
    • 1
  • Tsuneo Yamauchi
    • 1
  • Yoshihiro Iwakura
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hiroki Terakawa
    • 1
  • Kaoru Hirai
    • 1
  • Yusuke Miki
    • 1
  • Yuji Harima
    • 1
  • Koki Inoue
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeuropsychiatryOsaka City University Graduate School of MedicineOsakaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryOsaka City General HospitalOsakaJapan

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