By Talia Machlouf

Upon a celiac disease diagnosis, the general concern going forward is typically the patient’s overall physical health. Issues like potential comorbidities, diseases associated with celiac disease, and the possibility of passing the disease down to offspring may be discussed, as well as the specifics of the gluten-free diet, but increased social anxiety as a result of celiac disease is seldom mentioned. Social-emotional health has historically been absent from discussions around maintaining proper health with celiac disease. This gap in healthcare for patients with celiac disease has recently been addressed in a presentation from Digestive Disease Week in May 2021, revealing that many adults with celiac disease have increased social anxiety, which negatively affects their quality of life, eating habits, and socialization.

68 percent of survey participants indicated that celiac disease had a major/moderate impact on their dating life.

Led by researchers Anne R. Lee, EdD, RDN, LD, and Jessica Lebovitz, RD, CDN, CNSC – both from the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center – the survey included 538 participants age 18 and older who follow a gluten-free diet, and was comprised of a social behavioral questionnaire regarding dating attitudes, behaviors, and preferences specific to celiac disease, a social anxiety questionnaire, a quality of life measurement, and a celiac disease food attitudes and behaviors scale. 68 percent of survey participants indicated that celiac disease had a major/moderate impact on their dating life. This cohort also scored lower on celiac disease quality of life and was more hesitant to go on dates because of celiac disease. Furthermore, the survey concluded that 39% of participants were uncomfortable explaining dietary needs to waiters while on a date, 28% of participants reported riskier eating behaviors, and 8% reported purposefully eating gluten. Dating overall was not a pleasurable experience for those with celiac disease, according to 19% of survey participants.

Lee reports that “those in the 23 to 35-year age group had significantly lower quality of life scores and higher social anxiety scores compared to those over 65 years of age. In fact, 48.4% of participants reported being hesitant to go on dates because of their celiac disease.” Results from this survey indicate that the social-emotional well-being of patients with celiac disease requires further investigation, more attention, and deserves more space in the discussion of the overall and complete health of a celiac disease patient.


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