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Arch Hellen Med, 25(3), May-June 2008, 341-347


Differences in eating disorder symptomatology between athletes and non-athletes

11st Department of Psychiatry, University of Athens, Medical School, Athens,
2Department of Psychology, University of Athens, School of Philosophy, Athens,
3Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Athens, Athens, Greece

OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to investigate possible differences in eating disorder symptomatology be-tween a group of athletes and a group of university students as well as to investigate the risk factors for developing of eating disorders symptomatology in females.

METHOD The EAT-26, BDI, STAI and SPAS (trait) questionnaires were administered to 60 adult athletes (27 female and 33 male) and 60 non-athlete university students (40 female and 20 male). Each subject was asked to indicate on a series of 12 male and 12 female human figures those that they considered as the ideal male and female body, and the figure that in their mind resembled most their own body. The body mass index (BMI) was calculated for each subject.

RESULTS Male athletes scored higher in the oral control dimen-sion of EAT-26 than male non athletes. Female athletes also perceived their body as leaner than female non-athletes did (P=0.003), although there was no statistically significant difference between the BMI of the two groups. A sub-group of women (n=7, 10.4%) who had disordered eating attitudes (EAT >20) chose leaner ideal female figures and also scored higher on the BDI, STAI trait and SPAS questionnaires. Younger age (P=0.04), being an athlete (P=0.03) and SPAS score (P=0.02) were found in logistic regression analysis to influence significantly the risk of development for developing disordered.

CONCLUSIONS There were only minor differences in eating disorder measurements be-tween athletes and non-athletes. A small group of young women who are preoccupied with their physical appear-ance and are involved in athletic activities appears to run a greater risk for developing disordered.

Key words: Athletes, Body image, Eating disorders.

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