Role of body dissatisfaction in the onset and maintenance of eating pathology: a synthesis of research findings

J Psychosom Res. 2002 Nov;53(5):985-93. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(02)00488-9.


Objective: Recent findings implicate body dissatisfaction in the development and maintenance of eating pathology. This paper reviews theory and empirical findings regarding the putative origins and consequences of body dissatisfaction because recent findings have not been synthesized or critically evaluated and because these findings have key etiologic and prevention implications.

Methods: A computer-assisted literature review was conducted to locate relevant prospective and experimental studies.

Results: There is evidence that perceived pressure to be thin, thin-ideal internalization and elevated body mass, but not early menarche, increase the risk for subsequent body dissatisfaction. There is also consistent support for the assertion that body dissatisfaction is a risk factor for eating pathology and that this relation is mediated by increases in dieting and negative affect.

Conclusions: This review provides support for the claim that sociocultural processes foster body dissatisfaction, which in turn increase the risk for bulimic pathology, and suggests that prevention and treatment interventions might be enhanced by focusing greater attention on body image disturbances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Image*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menarche
  • Puberty
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Conditions