During adolescence, attitude toward personal appearance plays an important role in self-esteem. Many adolescents become preoccupied with their body weight and attempt to achieve the ideal physique because of social and cultural norms, reinforced by media messages emphasizing a thin and physically fit body. This preoccupation influences their dieting and eating behaviors (Rus-Makaovec & Tomori, 2000; Hausenblas & Mack, 1999).
There has been a significant increase in the incidence of eating disorders in the past twenty years. Nattiv and Lynch (1994) estimated that 1-3% of the general Western female population meet formal criteria for disordered eating, with higher prevalence among adolescent and young adult women. It has been estimated that 15% or more of college women meet diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa (Borgen & Corbin, 1987), and the prevalence of anorexia nervosa has been reported at 0.1-4% and bulimia at 18-20% of school-aged females (Anstine & Grinenko, 2000).
Eating disorders in general, and anorexia and bulimia nervosa in particular, are complex problems, involving behavioral, cognitive, and emotional issues (Bussolotti, Fernandez-Aranda, Solano, Jimenez-Murcia, Turon, & Vallejo, 2002). For example, Fisher, Schneider, Pegler, and Napolitano (1991) studied suburban female high school students and found strong intercorrelations among abnormal eating attitudes, low self-esteem, high anxiety, and increased weight concerns. In addition, Spink (1992) found a relationship between self-presentational concern (i.e., social physique anxiety) and eating disorder correlates. Bulik, Beidel, Duchmann, Welltzin, and Kaye (cited in Hausenblas & Mack, 1999) suggested that eating disordered individuals have a fear of negative evaluation, specifically a fear that their weight or physical appearance will be perceived by others as falling outside of social norms. Further, it has been reported that women with eating disorders tend to have high need for social approval and experience high social anxiety and low self-esteem (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; Gross & Rosen, 1988; Katzman & Woichik, 1984).
Generally, disordered eating patterns have been studied more among females than males, with many studies examining self-esteem and anxiety. Recently, researchers have examined social physique anxiety in relation to disturbed eating behaviors. The present study was conducted to answer three questions: (1) What percentage of female and male university students would be found to have disturbed eating behaviors? (2) Would the prevalence of disturbed eating attitudes for females differ from that of males? (3) Would there be differences in psychological characteristics (i.e., self-esteem, trait anxiety, and social physique anxiety) between those with different eating attitudes?
The participants consisted of 457 female (mean age = 18.25 [+ or -] 0.71 years) and 326 male (mean age = 18.23 [+ or -] 0.66 years) university students in Turkey. Mean body mass index (BMI) was 22.2 [+ or -] 2.90 for males and 20.7 [+ or -] 2.58 for females; 21.5% of males and 42.9% of females had a BMI below 20.0 (underweight); 65.6% of males and 50.1% of females had a BMI of 20.0-24.9 (normal weight); 11.3% of males and 6.3% of females had a BMI of 25.0-29.9 (overweight), and 1.5% of males and 0.7% of females had a BMI of 30.0-34.9 (obese).
Eating Attitudes Test. The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) is a widely used self-report measure of eating disorders. It was developed by Garner and Garfinkel (1979) to examine symptoms of anorexia nervosa. The EAT-26, used in the present study, is based on the original Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-40). The Turkish version of the EAT-40 (Savasir & Erol, 1989) measures disturbance in eating attitudes and behaviors. The reliability of the EAT-26 was examined in a pilot study in which fifty university students participated; the internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) was . …