Journal of Community Nursing - page 94

94 JCN
2013,Vol 27, No 4
MENTAL HEALTH
be preoccupied with their weight and
shape (Davis et al, 2001; Gingras et al,
2004; Colabianchi et al, 2006).
In comparison to men, women are
more likely to be preoccupied with
their shape (Kittler et al, 2007) and
weight and to engage in disordered
eating behaviours (Afifi-Soweid et al,
2002). Women in university settings
have also demonstrated weight and
shape preoccupation (Branen, 1989;
Tubbs, 2000), body dissatisfaction
(Cash et al, 2004), and disordered
eating behaviours (Taylor et al, 2006).
In one study, increasingly
unhealthy attitudes about eating
and weight meant that females
who had lost or gained weight had
higher rates of restrained eating,
body dissatisfaction and ‘drive
for thinness’, as well as being at
greater risk of developing more
serious eating disorder behaviours
(Provencher et al, 2009).
Also, female students’concerns
related to eating, weight, and shape
typically do not resolve or remit during
the traditional university age period
(18 to 23 years) (Cain et al, 2010).
AIMS OF THE STUDY
Previous research had identified the
prevalence and rise of weight and
shape preoccupation in university
students (Branen, 1989; Tubbs, 2000).
However, the purpose of this study
was:
To identify the incidence of weight
preoccupation
To identify the associated factors
influencing weight preoccupation
To identify whether there is a
relationship between weight
preoccupation and the risk of
developing an eating disorder
in female students aged 18 to 23
years.
METHODS
A validated questionnaire entitled
‘Women and their weight’was adapted
from the 79-item questionnaire used
in previous research (Branen, 1989;
Tubbs, 2000).
The questionnaire included 40
questions from the Eating Attitudes
The EAT-40 has since been
updated to EAT-26 (Garner et
al, 1982). However, the authors’
questionnaire used the EAT-40
to maintain consistency with the
original. The questionnaire gathered
information on:
Whether participants identified
themselves as being preoccupied
with weight or shape
Dieting history
Minimum and maximum weights
since age 15 years
Extent to which friends and family
members influenced dieting
behaviours
Ideal weight
Exercise habits
Diagnosis of an eating disorder
Influence of media
Any past teasing about weight.
The questions were composed
based on recommendations by Salant
and Dillman (1994).
Participants
A random selection of 10% of all
female students aged 18 to 23 years
and enrolled full-time at the authors’
university in the spring of 2010 were
contacted to participate in the study
(n=430).
Procedure
The selected students were emailed a
covering letter explaining the purpose
of the study, a link to the online
survey, and an offer to be included in
a draw for a university book shop gift
card. All participants were sent two
follow-up emails reminding them to
complete the questionnaire.
Data analysis
The EAT section of each questionnaire
was scored to obtain a total EAT
score (Garner and Garfinkel, 1979).
BMI standards were used to classify
participants as underweight, normal
weight or overweight. Items were
ranked on a scale ranging from 1 (‘not
at all’) to 5 (‘extremely’).
Participants were asked,‘Do you
feel that you spend too much time
thinking about your weight, or in
other words, are you preoccupied by
your weight?’
Participants who responded 4
(‘very much’) or 5 (‘extremely’)
were classified as weight-
preoccupied
Participants who answered 1
(‘not at all’), 2 (‘slightly’), or 3
(‘moderately’) were classified as
non-weight-preoccupied.
Participants were also asked,‘Do
you feel that you spend too much
time thinking about your shape, or in
other words, are you preoccupied by
your shape?’Those who responded 4
(‘very much’) or 5 (‘extremely’) were
classified as shape-preoccupied.
Data were analysed using
Statistical Package for Social Sciences
(SPSS version 18) with a significance
level of p<0.05. T-tests were used to
compare the characteristics of self-
identified weight-preoccupied and
non-weight-preoccupied women,
as well as differences in EAT scores,
BMI, and other continuous variables.
Factors associated with weight-
preoccupied and non-weight-
preoccupied women were identified
using chi-square tests.
RESULTS
Of the 430 students contacted, 33%
responded to the survey (n=121). The
mean age of the respondents was
20±1.39 years:
Thirty-one percent (n=38) of
women considered themselves to
be weight-preoccupied
Thirty-three per cent (n=40)
considered themselves to be
shape-preoccupied.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, weight
preoccupation was associated with
shape preoccupation, with the
majority (n=32) of self-identified
weight-preoccupied women also
self-identifying as shape-preoccupied.
Only six of the weight-preoccupied
women did not consider themselves
to be shape-preoccupied. Similarly,
Test (EAT-40), a valid and reliable
self-report questionnaire originally
developed as a screening tool in the
assessment of eating disorders (Garner
and Garfinkel, 1979; Garner et al, 1982).
‘In comparison to men,
women are more likely to be
concerned with their shape.’
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