The relationship between eating disorders and personality in physically active women

Authors

  • L. B. Augestad,

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    1. Department of Sports Science, Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dragvoll
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  • B. Sæther,

    1. Department of Sports Science, Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dragvoll
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  • K. G. Götestam

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
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Dr. Liv Berit Augestad, Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA

Abstract

The aim of the study was to examine the relationship between personality factors, self-reported eating disorders, type of physical activity, level of sport competition and hours spent on physical activity each week among physically active non-athletes and athletes. A total of 591 high school women participated in the study. The mean age was 19 during the data collection. Scores were obtained on the Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP) and a questionnaire concerning eating disorders (1) and physical activity. All diagnoses were based upon the DSM-IV criteria for anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). The prevalence of AN was 1.5%, BN 2.0%. AN + BN 0.3% and EDNOS 12.9%. The prevalence of eating disorders (ED) was highest among physically active non-athletes who were members of fitness clubs (odds ratio (OR)=1.86. 95% CI: 1.08–2.79). However, there was no relationship between the prevalence of eating disorders and the level of sport competition or time spent on physical activity. The results showed that women with eating disorders scored higher in anxiety, hostility and detachment, and lower in socialisation than the women without eating disorders. The results indicated that individuals with certain personality characteristics had a higher risk for being classified with ED, but it does not seem to be related to whether they are physically active or not. The findings in this study may support the hypothesis that participating in physical activity can have some positive psychological effects, but this does not necessarily apply to patients with AN and BN. ED may have a biological/genetic explanation according to Eysenck's personality theory.

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