Alexithymia and health behaviors in healthy male volunteers
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The association between alexithymia and maladaptive health behaviors was evaluated in 118 young, healthy men, aged 18-45 years. Subjects completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-26), and a health behaviors questionnaire, measuring alcohol and drug use, sedentary lifestyle, poor nutritional consumption, and risky sexual practices. In forced hierarchical regression analyses, the association between alexithymia and health behaviors was evaluated after adjusting for age, body mass index, social support, ambivalence over expression of emotion, and the expression of emotion. Results indicated that: (1) the TAS-26 and difficulty identifying feelings was associated with poor nutritional consumption; (2) difficulty identifying feelings was associated with greater alcohol and drug use; and (3) difficulty communicating feelings was associated with a more sedentary lifestyle. There was no association between risky sexual practices and alexithymia. These results suggest that, in young men, difficulties with identifying emotions and communicating emotions are associated with maladaptive nutritional habits, a sedentary lifestyle, and substance abuse, even after adjusting for other psychosocial and demographic variables. Such maladaptive health behaviors may help explain the association between alexithymia and premature mortality.
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