Elite athletes: effects of the pressure to be thin

J Sci Med Sport. 2002 Jun;5(2):80-94. doi: 10.1016/s1440-2440(02)80029-9.


This study represented the first attempt to examine the prevalence of eating disorders in a large sample of both male and female elite athletes compared to a matched control group of non-athletes. The subjects were 263 Australian elite athletes representing a variety of sports, and 263 non-athletes. All subjects were interviewed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and completed a number of self-report questionnaires. Both male and female athletes competing in sports that emphasise a lean body shape or a low body weight evidenced a significantly higher prevalence of eating disorders and eating disorder symptoms than other athletes and non-athletes. The results suggest that athletes do, in fact, have a higher prevalence of eating disorders than non-athletes. However, it is not so much being an athlete that places an individual at increased risk for developing an eating disorder; rather it is athletes competing in sports which emphasise the importance of a thin body shape or a low body weight who appear to be particularly vulnerable.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Weight*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Prevalence
  • Sports*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires