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Keywords:

  • disordered eating;
  • stress;
  • coping;
  • women

Abstract

Objective

To investigate the relationships among stress, coping, and symptoms of disordered eating in a community sample of young Australian women.

Method

A longitudinal study design was employed. Two mail-out surveys, assessing perceived psychological stress, coping strategies, body weight dissatisfaction, dieting, and disordered eating behaviors, were completed 6 months apart by 415 young women selected from a cohort of the Women's Health Australia Study.

Results

Strong cross-sectional relationships among the study variables were found. Results of longitudinal analyses, however, demonstrated only tenuous relationships among stress, coping, and later symptoms of disordered eating.

Discussion

These results did not support the hypothesis that stress and coping strategies would predict disordered eating over time. Some evidence was found for a modest reverse relationship between stress and disordered eating. Although contrary to generally accepted theoretical models of disordered eating, these findings are consistent with those of the few previous longitudinal studies reported. Theoretical implications are discussed. © 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 31: 71–81, 2002.