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Eating Disorders: Who is most at risk? 

Eating disorders: Multidimensional risk perspective 

eating disorderIndividuals 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 pressures: 

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 1950s. 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 continuing. 


Eating disorders and some professions: 

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 United States 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 Ph.D Candidate 

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