Weight and diet concerns in Finnish female and male athletes

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Feb;31(2):229-35. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199902000-00005.


PURPOSES AND METHODS: Factors related to eating disorders were studied in five groups of female (N = 173) and male (N = 190) athletes, and in female (N = 79) and male (N = 61) controls. Factors associated with menstrual status were also examined.

Results: The sum of drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction subscales in the Eating Disorders Inventory was higher (P < 0.05) in female controls (median: 5; 25th and 75th percentiles: 1 and 14) than in endurance athletes (0; 0 and 2). The male groups did not differ from each other (P = 0.08) or from female subjects (P = 0.62). The preferred weight loss in the female controls (-4.0 kg; -6.2 and -2.0) was larger (P < 0.05) than in most athletic groups. Males, on average, did not want to lose weight (different from females, P < 0.001). The prevalence of weight reduction attempts (85%) in female weight-class athletes was higher (P < 0.05) compared with endurance and ballgame athletes and the controls (29-58%). In males, the frequency (93%) of weight reduction attempts was also highest in the weight-class athletes (P < 0.05). The prevalence of menstrual disturbances was 27-37% in aesthetic, endurance, and weight-class athletes, and 5% in controls (P = 0.06).

Conclusions: The results confirmed that the risk for eating disorders is dependent on the type of sport. The claim that some female athlete groups are at greater risk than controls did not receive evidence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Weight*
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Menstruation Disturbances / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires