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Keywords:

  • pro-anorexia;
  • Internet

Abstract

Objective

To assess whether exposure to pro-eating disorder (pro-ED) websites influences college women's eating behaviours.

Method

Female college students with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 18 and no history of an ED were exposed to either pro-ED websites, healthy/exercise websites or tourist websites for 1.5 hours and were given quantitative and qualitative measures designed to assess changes in eating behaviour.

Results

The pro-ED website group experienced a significant one-week decrease in caloric intake from pre- to post-exposure (12 167 calories vs. 9697 calories). Following exposure, participants reported using techniques on the websites to aid with food reduction and had strong emotional reactions to the websites. These changes persisted for 3 weeks following the study's end.

Discussion

Even modest exposure to pro-ED websites may encourage significant changes in caloric intake and increased disordered eating behaviours. By extension, even greater exposures to these websites by at-risk females may contribute to the development of EDs. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.