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#### Abstract

GONI, Alfredo  and  RODRIGUEZ, Arantzazu. Variables associated with the risk of eating disorders in adolescence. Salud Ment [online]. 2007, vol.30, n.4, pp.16-23. ISSN 0185-3325.

It is very important to specify the generic affirmation that eating disorders mainly affect the female population, especially during adolescence.

This study examined three variables associated with the risk of eating behaviour disorders (EBDs): age (early and late adolescence), physical self-concept and engagement in physical activity, as well as the interaction between these factors. This study, to be precise, aimed to clarify the following questions regarding the risk to the non-clinical adolescent population of suffering eating disorders: 1. Whether the risk is higher in the 15-18 age range than in the 12-14 one; 2. the relationship between risk and physical self-concept; 3. the relationship between risk and physical activity; and 4. whether the risk is always higher in women than in men, regardless of the three aforementioned variables (age, self-concept and sporting activity).

There were 740 adolescent participants, 366 men (49.46%) and 374 women (50.54%), aged between 12 and 18 years ($\stackrel{-}{\mathrm{X}}$ = 14.33; SD=1.41).

Three measurements were applied: the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI), by Garner and Olmsted, the Cuestionario de Autoconcepto Físico (CAF) by Goñi, Ruiz de Azúa and Rodríguez (2006), and a questionnaire on physical activity.

Results confirm that, as indicated by significantly higher scores in the EDI, the risk of suffering from eating disorders is higher among women than men, in the 15-18 age range than in the 12-14 one, in those with a low physical self-concept and in those who engage only sporadically rather than regularly in some kind of physical activity.

Therefore, age, self-concept and physical activity therefore become modulating variables of the risk of suffering from eating disorders. Improvement in self-concept and the acquisition of active life habits, factors which modulate the usual gender differences in eating disorders, are the objects of educational intervention; this intervention is particularly important for adolescent females aged between 15 and 18 years.

Consequently, physical self-concept should be included not only in the designs of research projects focusing on the self-perception of the physical-self, but also in the designs of guidance programmes; special attention should be given to those who have developed a low self-perception of both their physical condition and physical attractiveness.

Furthermore, moderate physical activity is clearly better than a sedentary lifestyle; engaging in regular physical activity is highly recommendable, in general, as a way of preventing eating disorders.

Finally, the group most in need of educational support in this field is the population of female adolescents aged between 15 and 18 years. Two criteria are important: a) the promotion of regular physical activity may be one resource, although not the only one, since by itself is not effective enough to eradicate the risk of eating disorders; b) special attention should be given to those who have developed a low self-perception of both their physical condition and physical attractiveness.

Keywords : Mental health; eating disorders; physical activity; physical self-concept; adolescence.

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