Social Rank and Symptom Change in Eating Disorders: A 6-month Longitudinal Study




Following previous cross-sectional research adopting an evolutionary approach to social rank and eating disorders, the present study explored the predictive value of social rank for changes in eating disorder symptoms in a 6-month longitudinal study.


Seventy-three women and men with a history of eating disorders were followed up over 6 months. A broad range of measures of social rank were used to determine whether social rank at baseline predicted residual changes in eating disorder symptoms.


Low social rank (in terms of perceived external entrapment and submissive behaviour) predicted an increase in symptoms of anorexia but not symptoms of bulimia. The predictive value of low social rank was not mediated by changes in depressive symptoms.


Perceived low rank predicts an increase in anorexic symptoms. However, further research is required to determine the precise nature of how social rank exerts its influence on the development of eating disorder symptoms. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message:

  • Self-perceived low social rank predicts an increase in anorexic symptoms but not bulimic symptoms.
  • The effect of low social rank on changes in anorexic symptoms was not mediated by changes in depressive symptoms.
  • Interventions for anorexia nervosa may need to incorporate techniques for increasing status and/or self-compassion.