Eating Disorders: Who is most at risk?
Multidimensional risk perspective
most at risk for eating disorders are best described by researchers and
theorists using the multidimensional risk perspective. They usually consider
several key factors placing individuals at risk for eating disorders. The more
of these factors that are available the higher the
risk to develop these disorders. Among the leading factors which have been
identified by leading researchers are sociocultural conditions (societal and
family pressures), psychological problems (ego, cognitive, and mood
disturbances), and the biological variables associated with eating disorders.
Eating disorders – societal
Many theorists believe that
the current standards of female attractiveness according to Western standards
contribute considerably to the increasing incidence of eating disorders. The
standards have changed considerably over the years with a growing preference for
a thin female frame. This shift has taken place since approximately the 1950’s.
One study tracked the height, weight, and age of contestants in the Miss America
Pageant from 1959 through 1978 and found an average decline of 0.28 pounds per
year among the contestants and 0.37 pounds per year among the winners. These
researchers also examined data from Playboy Magazine centerfold models over this
same time period and found consistent decreases in average weight, bust, and hip
measurements. More recent research (completed in 2000) on Miss America pageant
contestants and Playboy centerfolds have found these same trends to be
Eating disorders and some
Eating disorders have been
found to have a high level of prevalence in such subcultures as fashion models,
actors, dancers and certain athletes, due to the high value placed upon thinness
among members of these professions. As the sociocultural theorists would
predict, studies have found individuals in these fields to have a much higher
propensity toward eating disorders, with some prominent members of these
professions having publicly acknowledged grossly distorted eating patterns.
Recent research of 1,443 athletes at 10 colleges in the
found that 9% of female college athletes suffer from an eating disorder and
another 50% admit to eating behaviors which put them at risk for these
disorders. A full 20% percent of gymnasts have been found in some studies to
have eating disorders.
Eating disorders – The
economic and racial differences:
Attitudes toward thinness
may help to explain some of the racial and economic differences in rates of
eating disorders among American women. In the past, caucasian women from upper
socioeconomic levels have shown more of a concern for maintaining their thinness
then African-American women and white women from lower socioeconomic levels.
Eating disorders were obviously found to be at a higher level of prevalence
among women higher on the socioeconomic scale. Recent research has found,
however, that dieting and a preoccupation for thinness has increased
significantly among all socioeconomic classes and minority groups as well as the
prevalence of eating disorders.
Information from Ronald J.
Comer's Abnormal Psychology
Additional information by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist
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